Tons of impressive video cameras were released this year, and the Sony a7S III is likely to make the shortlist of best cinema cameras of 2020. Full-frame sensor, impressive low-light performance, high-bitrate recording up to 4K 120p, and plenty more.
It’s also compact and perfect for run-and-gun work. Before the a7S III was here that portable cinema camera had some steep competition, with one of the most popular and interesting being the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K from Blackmagic Design.
These two cameras are very different, though they do target the same audience. If you are looking for a new camera this comparison from director and cinematographer Matteo Bertoli showing footage from both cameras in a blind test might be very interesting.
When you compare anything you want to keep the variables to a minimum. Bertoli set both cameras to the same settings and used the same lens.
The settings were a white balance of 5000K, 24p frame rate, and matched ISOs. In front of the camera was a Leica R 35mm lens with a NiSi IRND filter. Fairly standard stuff.
Where the cameras had to different a bit was with the codecs. The PCC6K used 6K BRAW 8:1 while the a7S III relied on its 4K S-Log3 10-bit 4:2:2 XAVC S-I codec.
This is fair as it relies solely on internal recording options, however if we were doing a more in-depth comparison I would want to see some raw footage from the a7S III.
For editing, Bertoli used DaVinci Resolve and BUTTERY Natural Rec 709 LUTs to convert the log footage on both cameras. It was actually very well handled as the footage looked similar.
Still, if you know what to look for it is quite easy to figure out which camera is which. Things like sensor size, built-in stabilization, etc. are very obvious ways to discern the differences. Still worth checking out the video though.
Both cameras actually look very, very close in the normal situations. Daylight shooting with nice lighting and you could probably intercut these without worry. An argument could be made that highlights were handled a touch better with the Pocket 6K, but I think it’s just too close to call a real winner there.
As for color, I think Blackmagic maintained a more neutral image while the a7S III showed it’s green tint that Sony is known for. Still, unless you plan on using the cameras with each other that shouldn’t be a big concern as both are very good with color handling and should be quite flexible in post.
Low-light is an interesting comparison, and I think we need to talk more about the technical background to understand it. Bertoli claims the PCC6K outperforms the a7S below ISO 12800, which shouldn’t make sense.
However, the 6K footage actually helps minimize the appearance of noise when downsampled to 4K. It becomes smaller and less noticeable. The a7S III doesn’t have that advantage with essentially 1:1 sampling in 4K. So any noise is there, even if it actually isn’t as much or can be easily cleaned.
The second part is the a7S III’s high-sensitivity performance. While not a true dual native ISO (I talked at length with a Sony rep about this, it’s weird), it effectively has a similar result when at ISO 12800.
This means that the footage becomes exceptionally clean here and gives the a7S III a clear edge over most competition in low-light at extremely high sensitivities. It absolutely beats the Pocket 6K here.
So who wins? I don’t think either one did. In terms of image quality in normal shooting situations they were very close. Use a speedbooster or something on the Pocket 6K and the difference would likely become even less noticeable. In extreme low-light the a7S III wins out easily. However, this all forgets the other aspects of a camera, such as ease of use, battery life, inputs/outputs, autofocus, stabilization, etc.
I would put the a7S III as a better run-and-gun camera with its IBIS, great low-light spec, and AF while the Pocket 6K is a better for people working on set. But there’s nothing stopping you from picking up one and using it in both of those situations.
Was there anything you noticed in the comparison? Which camera would you pick?
[source: Matteo Bertoli]
- Sony Alpha a7S III Mirrorless Camera (B&H, Amazon)
- Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K (B&H, Amazon)
- NiSi 77mm Starter Filter Kit (B&H, Amazon)
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