A7S Hands on experiences and samples

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abortabort
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A7S Hands on experiences and samples
5 months ago

So I got to play with an A7S the other night in a low lit bar and wanted to share some of my experiences with the camera as still not that much is known about it and there seems to be very little samples etc even from the major review sites etc (though I am sure more will come out in the next few days as a guess).

I have some RAW and JPEG samples to share which I will have up shortly and will add to this thread.

But first for some experiences:

1. Body: Better than the A7, similar to the A7R but the mount does 'feel' more solid. Other than that it is exactly what you would expect from the A7R.

2. AF: Noticeably quicker than the A7 and A7R in this dimly lit environment. It had about zero trouble locking on to anything, I find my A7 is super quick in good light but becomes quite poor in low light. The A7S had no trouble here and was at least equal to my previous 6D using centre point AF (where it is better in low light than any Canon as far as I am aware). This was true whether using the FE55 (the fastest aperture lens they have) or the FE 70-200mm f4 (I was absolutely thrilled by the performance of this combo for it's fast and accurate AF and the high ISO abilities of the A7S you could just about shoot anything, f4 with the A7S is not slow) and the FE35 was like lightning. In dim light the A7S was noticeably better than the a6000 which would hunt a bit more in certain scenarios.

3. I ONLY really got to test the high ISO performance of the camera, because there was not a lot of light to be found anywhere. 3200 was the absolute lowest you could reasonably use and if your subject was moving then that was miles too low. So pretty much everything was ISO 3200 and above in my test shots - Not a big deal as that is where I wanted to test it anyway, in 'real' low light.

4. Silent Shutter: It works as advertised, silently. I am sure it probably has some rolling shutter issues as all electronic rolling shutters do, but the big thing is that noise and colour etc all seemed to be relatively similar to using the EFCS mode. This is usually a big problem for electronic shutters and they 'normally' output at a lower bitrate, this doesn't 'seem' to be the case, however as I mention above I was only able to test at higher ISOs where in this range a loss of DR etc will be the case anyway, which might explain why there isn't much difference. Shooting at low ISOs there may still be a noticeable gap between the two... Will have to wait for further testing.

5. Video: I couldn't test the XAVC-S as the card I had was too slow and the A7S refused to work with the slow card - probably a good thing rather than 'trying and failing' to be honest.

6. Shutter sound: Same as A7 when in EFCS mode, maybe 'slightly' more damped by the more solid body / mount, but only slightly.

7. Viewfinder: Noticeably cleaner than A7 in lower light. This comes down to the sensor's cleaner output / live view feed. Otherwise very much the same as A7/R.

8. High ISO output: What can I say? Dumbfounded. I expected high ISO to be good, just not this good. All the JPEGs you have seen give no real idea how usable the ISO is on this thing! I will let you play with the RAW and JPEGs yourselves to determine what your own 'usable limits' are as everyone is different, but to me ISO 51,200 is about where 6400-12,800 is on my A7. It is cleaner than my old A77 was at 1600, in fact I would say that 102,400 is my usable in a pinch ISO and everything from 51,200 down is perfectly acceptable. But what is really scary is how clean 'normal' high ISOs are around 1600-6400. 3200 looks like 400 on my A7, really! But ignoring just noise for a minute, the other thing that impressed me is just how much DR and colour is retained at higher ISO levels, this is where it is really king of the night. Most FF cameras are pretty 'ok' up to about 12,800, some of the slightly better ones 25,600... for noise. But they dramatically lose DR and colour information. The A7S just soaks in light and seems to maintain colour and DR so much better than anything I have ever used. 6D manages to stay fairly clean but you end up with 'muddy' shots that struggle with any post work. A7 retains colour better but gets noisier earlier than 6D so even if the colour sticks around it has to compete with the noise, so also gets washed out.

Everything else seems very much the same as it's sister models. I can say it is quite a surreal experience, for someone who has been shooting for 20 years, to be in the situation in that low a light level to be hitting up against the 1/8000th shutter limit! Never, ever have I experienced that and I got caught out when shooting some of the really upper ISO levels because it is just not something that has ever occurred to me to be a problem in this lighting.

As I mention I will link some samples shortly to play with. I will also explain some of the caveats of trying to play around with the RAWs which are basically unsupported at this time - Though Brian from Iridient Developer has been playing around with them to get try and get support happening properly (thanks Brian!).

After having some actual hands on time with the A7S and seeing the output I will definitely be buying, replacing my A7 is a complete no brainer for me (I predominantly shoot events). Yes it is more expensive, but for the 'small' FE system it makes the most sense. The lenses aren't super fast, but when they are strapped to a sensor like this they don't need to be. In my view A7S is by far the best A7 series camera yet. The others are amazing and if you need resolution there is no comparison, but the fast AF in almost any light, the files that need far less work, the (relatively) slow lenses to keep the system small, the completely silent (and seemingly) very usable electronic shutter mode, the smaller files sizes (bigger buffer, faster processing, less storage), cleaner EVF and better video make all make it more than worthwhile for me... and I haven't spoken about the 4K video once (which most seem to think is the only selling point of this camera).

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