I think it is safe to say that the Sony a7S III is in the running for the title of best video-shooting mirrorless camera. It may even be better than a ton of actual pro video cameras with its impressive list of features, including a super-sensitive full-frame sensor, internal 4K 120p recording, 10-bit support, raw output, and more. Could it be better than the so-called “best” cinema cameras?
Dave Maze from Indy Mogul is here to help with their own head-to-head comparison between the a7S III and the excellent ARRI ALEXA Mini LF and Sony VENICE 6K cinema cameras. All the cameras are full-frame options, so the test is fitting. They even got some $20K ZEISS Supreme Primes to do some of the testing.
Where do we begin with this comparison? Well, how about just jumping right into the a7S III vs the ALEXA Mini LF. For our purposes that is going to be a straightforward blind test with the cameras shooting the same subjects side-by-side.
I know we are talking YouTube videos here, but I found it quite difficult to quickly discern the differences and then if one was objectively that much better than the other.
I don’t want to reveal which camera is which right here cause that will take the fun out of it. We are talking about cameras that are tens of thousands of dollars apart, and they were this close.
Granted, there’s a lot more that goes into a cinema camera than just an image. Also, looking closer at the footage you can see where things like color science come into play.
The a7S III, perhaps notoriously at this point, does not come with the latest and greatest Sony picture profiles, namely S-Cinetone. It is still limited to a more basic rendition of the S-Log and S-Gamut.
The color tones don’t look as nice as the ARRI. You can see how skin tones can pick up a magenta shift and how correcting that will impact the rest of the footage. As expected, the ALEXA looked great. And again, that doesn’t make the a7S III bad, it’s all relative.
That was a fun little look at how a mirrorless camera holds up against a top-tier cinema camera. The next look, comparing the a7S III to the VENICE, is designed to show off how the compact camera can work with a pro cinema camera.
Arguably, one of the selling points of the a7S III is that it is able to function as a B, C, or crash cam for a professional production using high-end Sony cameras.
Unfortunately, the a7S III didn’t get the S-Cinetone color, but it was updated to be a closer match. Now for the head-to-head footage comparison.
Again, I don’t want to spoil the surprise of which camera is which. With both using the same S-Log profiles the matching was quite close. Still, a bit of a magenta issue on the a7S III kept things from being perfect.
Honestly, they were super close, though I think in a detailed look you might be able to get a bit more detail out of the VENICE’s 6K sensor than the low-megapixel-count a7S III.
Moving on, we have to give the a7S III an edge by doing the low-light test. The a7S III is objectively one of the best cameras in the world for low-light/high-ISO shooting.
Straight away you’ll see some differences in that the ALEXA maxes out at ISO 3200 and the VENICE stops at a mere ISO 10,000. The a7S III can get up to a still insane ISO 409,600.
It seriously holds up for longer than it has any right. I doubt may serious shoots will ever rely heavily on anything north of ISO 51,200, but it is possible in a pinch or for specialty shots.
Maze’s final thoughts jump into the fact that there has never been a better time for filmmakers when it comes to cameras. You can get an amazing image from cameras that cost practically nothing.
He also concedes that the a7S III and other mirrorless options are great, but they certainly aren’t an ALEXA. They can hold up on the big screen, they just won’t hold up for professional cinema shoots all the time as they just aren’t built for it.
As Maze says, “There’s really no excuse anymore to not make great stuff.”
[source: Indy Mogul]
- Sony Alpha a7S III Mirrorless Camera (B&H, Amazon)
- Sony VENICE 6K Digital Cinema Camera (B&H)
- ARRI ALEXA Mini LF Cinema Camera (B&H)
- ZEISS Supreme Prime 35mm T1.5 Lens (B&H)
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