Things That Drive Me Crazy About The Sony A7s

July 20, 201460 Comments

Sony A7s with Sigma 50mm ART

I’ve had the Sony A7s for about a month and It’s a fun camera with some great features, but I just can’t seem to get comfortable with it and a few things just frustrate me. Please understand that this is all my opinion and if you disagree with them that’s fine. I’m not a fanboy just a guy who loves cameras. I paid full price for the Sony A7s with the Metabones adapter. That comes to $2900.00. To me that seems like a lot of money. More on this later.

I’m lucky to also have the GH4 and had the GH3 and GH2 before it and I liked them. Panasonic kept making each camera release better and better. Since I’m going to keep the GH4 and that decision was made before I had the A7s I started to ask myself if the A7s is a camera I need?

So why on earth am I writing this? Maybe it’s like therapy. I’m talking it out trying to get a handle on how I feel. Sounds a little crazy but what the heck!

Here are the reasons why i’m on the fence with the A7s. I’m not going into every feature I like since this isnt a review. I’m actually still working on that. This is only covering the stuff that gets in my way and makes it hard for me to want to keep the camera. Don’t get me wrong. The A7s has some really nice features so dont get mad at me for having issues with what I feel are weaknesses. :-D

First and foremost. The price. It has to be worth it. I’m in for $2900 and can’t shoot 4K yet. Yes I actually bought the A7s more for video than for stills but if the camera was great at stills with the lenses I have then that would sway me. I love the full frame look especially with stills. Full Frame with video is cool too but S35 is still my preferred sensor size. Focusing is easier at wide apertures. The crazy strong shallow depth of field can be interesting but sometimes too much with full frame.

Lenses

Camera bodies come and go but lenses can last forever. I have a pretty decent collection of Canon EF mount lenses that go with my 5D, 70D, C100 and C300. I’m a Canon EF mount guy when it comes to lenses. In order to use my EF lenses I purchased the electronic enabled Metabones EF to E Mount adapter for $399. It works well if you don’t use auto focus. For video I can live with that. Stills is another issue.

Metabones Adapter

 

A7s With Metabones Adapter

With the Metabones adapter the camera hunts like crazy before it locks in. I can focus manually faster and if the subject is moving forget it. This makes the A7s as my walk around camera a deal breaker. One more thing about the Metabones adapter is it looses contact with the camera and the lens a lot. The screen goes black and you have to take the lens off or at least unlock and retwist it back. This gets very annoying after it happens several times and it does happen frequently. I’m not sure if this issue can be fixed by the user with some kind of firmware update. On a side note I’m hoping Metabones will release a Canon EF to Micro Four Thirds adapter for the GH4. If they do I sure hope it will work better than this one does. Even with the issue I feel it’s worth having so I can use my EF lenses with the fun reset twist action.

With some of the issues using EF lenses I was thinking about purchasing native Sony lenses. I started looking into them and the reviews are pretty good and people say the autofocus is too. Now I already have issues with the price of the camera with the Metabones adapter. Now I’m looking at throwing a couple more grand at it with lenses? This isnt going to be pretty. Okay lets take a look.

The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens is $1200. That’s pricey and it’s only f4. I’m sure it’s a great lens, but it will only work with the A7s making it an expensive one camera lens just for the A7s. That takes the price up way past my sanity can handle! I was thinking and hoping I could make the A7s a great walk around full frame camera since it’s very light and compact but again it comes to lenses. The only Sony lens that would fit the bill would be the Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Lens that retails for $998 or the Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens $798. Here we go again…$$$! I would prefer the 35mm for candid stuff but the 55mm isnt a deal breaker focal length and it’s fast for creative bokeh. To take full advantage of auto focus on the A7s I feel you need to use native lenses with it. For me thats a big price increase. I don’t know how well autofocus works with third party lenses that are native E Mount. With third party Canon mount lenses it’s hit and miss so I would think the same goes here.

Video

The Sony A7s is a 4K capable camera but doesn’t record internally like the GH4 and it has a 29 minute record limit. Sony says it’s due to possible overheating issues.

If I want to shoot 4K then I have to spend  another $2k for the Atomos Shogun or even more for the Odyssey 7Q. I didn’t even factor in media for either.

So lets re-tally up how deep I’m getting. $2900 for camera and Metabones adapter with the $2K 4K recorder comes to $4900. See where I’m going? Now the A7s is going to cost me more than $5000 including extras like media for the recorder to get it in a place that would work for me. Heck I didn’t even include the other $2000 for a couple of Sony E Mount lenses. If I did I’m now over $7000.

Slog2 is interesting but it’s just too flat. The image needs a lot of grading. I like log shooting. Do it all the time with the C100 and Canon C300. Works great but the Slog2 on the A7s isn’t as easy to edit. I suggest using a LUT in post or FilmConvert. This will help a lot. I also recommend changing the saturation to around +5 to +8 in the camera profile when using Slog2. Really helps a lot.

When using Slog2 the camera defaults to ISO 3200. I dealt with it by using Hoya ProND filters but if you expose a little under the image is noisy. Sony recommends shooting two stops over in Slog2. Thats a tough call depending on the lighting situation. Blowing highlights can be an issue and you can’t recover them. After all the codec is only 8 bit 4:2:0.

120 fps isn’t good. It’s Soft. Also don’t try it with Slog2. The noise is that RGB type. Ugly. Not that organic filmic type. With a baked in look you can get better results just avoid “having” to grade the image.

Rolling shutter is very bad in full frame mode. It isn’t as much of an issue in APS-C mode. If I was going to shoot run and gun the A7s in full frame mode would be a big problem. Controlled movement isn’t to bad but overall shooting handheld could be an issue.

Features That Drive Me Crazy.

I cant get the A7s to white balance correctly when using the Slog2 profile. That is my preferred picture profile with the A7s. It just doesn’t work. I get an error and the balance is green. If I want to shoot in Slog2 then I have to dial it in. Not my preferred method.

Secondly you can’t white balance the camera when you’re in VIDEO MODE. This makes no sense! The only way to get a Custom White balance is to switch the camera to M and then go to Custom WB. Perform the WB and save it in one of the presets and then switch back to VIDEO MODE. This is just annoying. Sony needs to fix this.

A7s video record button

The video record button is a big issue with me. It’s this tiny flush button on the right side of the camera that you have to find then use your thumb to trigger record. It’s awful. After a while your finger starts hurting from the awkward angle and overuse from button hunting. A good fix would be to have the shutter button trigger the video record in video mode and the little record button becomes a custom function.

A7s C1 button

The punch in feature is nice but the default setting is for C1. This button is in a place thats hard to get to and my muscle memory just never took over.

A7s back buttons

I fixed this by changing the magnification button to C2 and put the focus mode to C1. Makes sense since that’s the zoom in feature to review pictures in playback mode. You even have the magnifying glass icon next to it to remind you. This should have been the default setting to begin with.

When the camera has a small lens on it like the Canon 40mm STM Pancake the body is easy to hold. Put any other lens with length or weight and it’s not so easy anymore. The retro design is nice to look at but not very practical. The newer DSLR design or even the GH4 is much better in the hand with all lenses.

The battery doesn’t last very long. I have four and will use them all in a short day of shooting. I suppose I’m spoiled from the Canon Cinema EOS cameras as well as the Panasonic GH4. Those cameras have the best batteries I have ever used.

The LCD screen does not articulate. I miss this a lot. No self shooting. Side shooting. All you get is tilt up and a little tilt down. Once you have a screen that flips all over the place you can’t go back. 70D and GH4 are very nice that way.

These are the things that bug me about the A7s. Maybe they aren’t a big deal to you and thats great. But if I had to pick one reason for returning the A7s it’s price. It’s hard to justify what it does for the amount of money I have to spend to get it the way I want it.

The A7s has one feature I like a lot. And thats the low light capability. It’s amazing but I don’t really need that feature all that much and to me it’s the best feature the camera offers. Outside of seeing what the camera looks like in 4K I still have a hard time justifying the cost for the camera. The A7s is a hybrid. I want to use it as one. Not just for video or only for stills. I want both and the price goes way up to get the A7s to be a workhorse hybrid camera.

Sony needs to rethink the overall design of the A7s and redo it. The body needs an upgrade and needs to move away from the retro look of the Alpha line with a truly ergonomic body. It needs to be able to cool the sensor for longer recording lengths.

The cool thing is how amazing these new cameras are. The A7s and GH4 are truly revolutionary cameras that do so much more than what we have seen in the recent past. If you thought the DSLR/Hybrid was dead think again. These two cameras sealed their existence and will be followed up with even better next versions and cameras from the other guys.

Here are a few test I did with the Sony A7s

Sunset Cliffs. Sony Alpha A7s 120fps and Full Frame from Erik Naso on Vimeo.

Downtown. Sony A7s In APS-C Mode and S-Log2 from Erik Naso on Vimeo.

News update Shot With Sony Alpha A7s from Erik Naso on Vimeo.

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Filed in: 35mm Lens4KA7sAtomosFeatured PostMirrorlessSony
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About the Author ()

I'm a broadcast DP In San Diego. I enjoy sharing what I'm working on and testing new equipment. This blog is also part of giving back. I've learned so much from so many people.

Comments (60)

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  1. Beverley Woodworth says:

    Erik I so appreciate your detailed analyses and points of view on cameras and gear. The fact that you are not a fanboy makes your reviews that much more invaluable to me. As someone struggling with which camera to get next in this transition period to 4k I need all the honest feedback I can get.

    I was a click away from getting the C100 through your site but decided that I need to future proof with something 4 k capable and your reviews are extremely helpful.

    • Erik Naso says:

      Thanks Beverley. I think a C100 would be a very good camera for sometime. If you need an all around workhorse camera that will make you money it’s still relevant. If you are shooting a feature or a television show I can see wanting to have 4K. One of the strengths of shooting in 4K is being able to reframe and pan do slow moves on the footage when editing in HD.

      • Beverley Woodworth says:

        That’s exactly why I am wanting a 4k for output to HD now – my work is very interview driven and it would be so nice to be able to reframe, zoom and pan, and cut in on interviews for CU without having to bring a second cam, etc. I have a Sony 3 chip HD video cam and a 2 5d3s so I’m thinking I can hang in with my “relics” a while longer to decide. Or rent. However, as a gear head, I reserve the right to change my mind and buy in a heartbeat (or a mouse click).
        Thanks again.

  2. Scott Pendleton says:

    Erik,
    Thank you for this very considered analysis of the A7s. I, too, am a GH4 owner and a GH3 before that and GH2 before that! I’ve always been a bit jealous of the full frame boys and was wondering if this A7s might be a good near pocketable, walk arouund camera for me that would satisfy my full frame cravings! Looks like we are thinking alike! Anyways, from your experience I think I’m gonna embrace what I already have (an awesome video AND stills camera) for now. Thanks again for your insight!

  3. Carlos Martinez says:

    I’m not too convinced yet that 4K is something that will be useful for you right away, in the sense of air-TV or paid-TV already demanding that. Are they already?

    Now if you mean to downconvert the 4K to lower resolutions, that is different.

    Or am I too misinformed on what are the demands when trying to sell a show?

  4. Christopher John Taylor says:

    Don’t like it, never will. The Metabones for the GH4 has the same issues Erik, sorry to report.

    For stills, it’s Canon. For 4K video, it’s still Canon. Stay with Canon, Canon loves you and delivers every bit of awesomeness anyone will ever need.

    And I gotta say, it’s a good thing Sony makes the F5, F55 and F65 and they are what they are, f*ing awesome. Otherwise I’d be off Sony all the way.

  5. Carlos Martinez says:

    Misinformation too, please excuse me for that.

    What 4K Canon are you talking about?

  6. Carlos Martinez says:

    OK, OK. I went have a look and there’s the Canon C500. A $20,000 camera. The Canon 1D-X seems not to be 4K yet, according to B&H specs.

    Isn’t $20,000 on a different league from the GH4, A7 or Blackmagics 4K, including the URSA and the other one I can’t remember now that was also released in Vegas?

    • Christopher John Taylor says:

      Carlos, The C500 is most certainly 4K and retails for 28,000.00 and is available in EF or PL mount. The 1D-C is a 4K as well and in the Canon Cinema EOS line for the past 2+ years.

  7. Carlos Martinez says:

    Cion, by Aja. That’s the one I didn’t remember. $9,000 supposedly.

  8. Christopher John Taylor says:

    Yes, the CION in PL mount retails for $9,000.00 (Due out in August) with no lenses or support and will push 4K all day long.

  9. Carlos Martinez says:

    OK. A higher price than I had mentioned for the C500 then. A league belonging in price with Sony F5, F55 and F65.

    Many people are not happy with the BM 4K and the Ursa and Cion may take some time yet.

    So what indy productions go for?

    • Christopher John Taylor says:

      Well, you can pick up an F55 body for $30,000.00 but don’t forget everything else you’ll need. That’ll come in closer to 50K and I have not seen an F65 to be had for less than $85,000.00, more like $110,000.00 for a well rounded system.

    • Christopher John Taylor says:

      For an Independent with limited budgets, the Panasonic GH4 is likely your camera of choice. The BMCC offerings are, well to be fair, hard to get used to and a good bit more costly overall. I believe Philip Bloom called them “clunky”.

      The Canon 5D will never steer you wrong looking for that “cinema” look.

      I’d be waiting on the CION next month too if you’re out to buy now. That system is going to rock the industry mark my words.

      URSA, like I always say is, “the ugly fat girl nobody wants” Not conducive to good workflows on set and weighs a TON!

  10. Eric Addison says:

    As you’re one who has lots of Canon glass, makes sense to me that you’d fare better with the GH4 in the long run. I can see how the A7s would cost more once you factor in all the things you mentioned.

    I was hoping for a shorter list since I’m really considering the A7s as a B-camera…might still work for me, but you’ve given me lots to consider. The lens issues don’t worry me since I’ve already got E-mount lenses, but the other points are good ones.

    Thanks for the write up, my friend!

    • Erik Naso says:

      Your welcome Eric (with a “c”)
      The GH4 put users in some what the same situation when you talk lenses. But if you take “other” cameras out of the conversation and look only at the A7s and what you need to use it I think it’s smart to start doing the math. Then you can really weigh the benefits versus expense. For me the numbers don’t make sense and also a few camera features that drive me crazy.

      When I spend my hard earned money on a hybrid I want to be able to use it as one. If it ends up being just a video camera I feel I could do better with something else. Even if it cost more.

  11. Carlos Martinez says:

    When I say independent, I still mean something that can be accepted and screened anywhere. In broadcast TV, pay TV or theater screens.

    AFAIK what they accept is quite broad now, from 1080p to 4K.

    As I never invested in the 5D path, which probably would make existing Canon lenses you might have easier to go with another Canon camera, I’m not really interested in Canons too much. Neither Panasonic BTW.

    I think the BM options or even the Cion look like much better deal than any Canons around.

  12. marklondon says:

    Great points Erik. I sent my A7s back for almost all the reasons you list above. HATED it for stills. I use the F55 all the time and still couldn’t get my head around the odd UI decisions. The RS threw me.
    It does shoot a nice image, but I didn’t need to own it.
    I’m afraid I don’t like the GH4 either. Not a fan of the look – just doesn’t work for me.

    I am aware of several new 4k capable hybrids coming. If I need 4K I’ll rent for a while. The A7s has opened the industry’s eyes re features at that price. Let’s hope they take the hint.

    Re the CION: I am VERY concerned re the DR. The footage looked very similar to the BM4K (its probably the same sensor)- very sharp and good color but any sky just went white. I also agree the URSA is a dog unless the have a 14 stop 120fps processor ready to drop in it.

    Fun times!

    • Erik Naso says:

      I’m keeping my GH4. I like it and it’s a great value. I already have a few nice lenses for MFT so it’s an inexpensive camera for me to own. As for lenses? I have the Lumix 12-35, 35-100 and the 7-14. Plus a little 14mm pancake. Nice kit!

      I think we will see lots of 4K cameras very soon too. The party just started! Bad news on the CION. I liked the camera when I saw it at NAB. URSA is a strange beast. We need to see more from them. Their supposed to be released very soon.

      • marklondon says:

        Exactly – you already own the lens kit, and you can fit in your work.
        That’s great.

        I tried it, we put it through a battery of tests, really wanted to like it, but it wasn’t for me. I’d be buying in to an entirely new system (plus I’d definitely be buying an external recorder).

        There’ll be a number of 4K hybrids out shortly. I’ll wait. :-)

  13. Sam Holder says:

    Erik,
    Fantastic info on the camera. A lot of people drool over stuff like 4K, low light, and log but fail to realize things like camera ergonomics can make or break a camera. I think people also fail to realize that adapting a lens to a different camera doesn’t always work as promised….unless it’s a completely manual lens. I really appreciate your opinions and thoughts on your gear. I like that you make your opinions based on practical, real-world use …. not just shooting flowers or beaches. I hate reviews that say they don’t like a camera because their flower videos didn’t have enough dynamic range. I look forward to more of your thoughts down the road.

    THANK YOU!

  14. Harvey Mann says:

    Thanks for this article Erik, its really appreciated, there are a lot of articles about the a7s around right now that are pretty much written while the reviewer is in the honeymoon stage and they wax lyrical about the things we know about the a7s like..great low light ability, great dynamic range, full frame look etc.
    But I always feel a bit suspicious when a reviewer is in the honeymoon stage and is writing a review after he’s had the camera a few days or a week, just because its the flavor of the month, its just not realistic.
    I labored for a long time over wether I will order a GH4 or the a7s, read countless reviews and so on trying to get a handle on the good and bad in these cameras…finally a little while back I decided to go with the GH4 (still hasn’t arrived) and my main reason to not go with the a7s was a lot of the things you mentioned.
    Plus although many cam users dont like the m 4/3rds look…I do like the look, actually I have seen a fair amount of GH4 footage that looks really great, enough to know that in the right hands it can produce a wonderful image, plus they have made several generations of these cameras and have a sophisticated system with several customizable picture profiles, whereas Sony seem to be floundering quite a bit (ergonomic wise and in other areas).
    So after reading your thoughts I feel a bit better about my choice, Canon obviously make nice cameras, but even tho I like the 5D Mk3 in RAW (its a beautiful image), its still too soft for my liking, it almost looks out of focus wen A/Bd against the GH4, plus I dont want massive RAW files all over my hard drives…so that really only left the GH4.
    So again…thanks for your review, its in line with a lot of what I picked up from bits and pieces of other reviews, its nice to know that someone like you waits, gets used to the camera then writes a review that doesn’t have that fanboy, flavour of the month thing going on.
    Looking forward to any of your new reviews or articles.
    Cheers

  15. Michael says:

    I came to same conclusion regarding the lenses. There are only two Sony native lenses for the a7S with image stabilization, and only five total. The Sony lenses are high priced, and they have had manufacturing quality issues. The lenses test well on DXOMark, but in many cases, are overkill for a 12 MP camera. So you are paying a lot of money on lenses, but not getting their full benefits.

    Then if you want to sell it later to upgrade, I am not sure how the resale value is going to be. I think most stills shooters will shy away from a 12 MP camera, and there aren’t a lot of people dedicated to SLR video yet.

    • Erik Naso says:

      Sony has a plan. They clearly want to be in the stills/Hybrid camera arena but I think they need to innovate and move forward with a new camera instead of taking the Alpha camera and putting new tech in it. It’s lazy to me. Make a new camera that makes a statement. The retro thing is cool but not a pro tool.

  16. Kevin says:

    I think a lot of what you said will sound like “blah, blah, blah” to those that like Sony. Seeing what comes ready in the body of the A7s for the cost makes the GH4 look even better with what comes ready in its body for the cost. I’m just wishing the GH4 had a 12G-SDI on body. I suppose I should call Panasonic and talk to them about it. They may listen.

    • Erik Naso says:

      I’m okay with that. It’s not a brand thing for me. It’s a what does your camera offer me at a price that is worth it. For me the math doesn’t work. The camera is great but I can’t afford to make it work. I want the most for my hard earned cash.

      • DanteC says:

        So i have a question because i love sony and am a fanboy but i have been doing a lot of research and watching countless reviews on the same things over and over lol, i love the low light great for when I’m doing street interviews or night scenes.. If you could buy the Sony for around the same price as the Panasonic would it be worth it? or should i go with the workhorse GH4 with its full! weather sealed body and 4k which can be converted to 4.2.2 1080p in camera and awesome wifi monitoring from any tablet or smartphone. Plus i just got the $495 Blackmagic pocket lol

        • Erik Naso says:

          Ha! Okay fanboy :-D
          Do you have the lenses for the A7s? Are you in anyway interested in using the A7s as a stills camera? Same question for the GH4 and MFT lenses.
          We are in this crazy paradigm where new technology is coming to market and these two cameras are so very different. for me the GH4 is easier to own because I bought MFT lenses a few years ago. I liked the format and Panasonic has some really nice lenses now. Back in the day when the AF-100 first came out I bough and used Nikon mount lenses for it. Manual lenses worked great for video but a year later we got a really nice batch of new X lenses to seal the deal.

          Maybe this is what Sony will do. Release some new fast zooms and primes for the Alpha cameras. If you like Sony and are looking at future with the E Mount then go for it!

          The low light ability of the A7s is just plain and simply amazing. If you need that feature above and beyond most of the other then I say it’s worth every penny.

          I think Sony will follow up with a new body design and fix a lot of the shortcomings that the A7s has. They definitely wowed us with the A7s.

  17. Oliver Peng says:

    Completely agree with this post! Rented the A7S, which came in today and started playing with it. It’s got a lot of things going for it, but a small subset of things really kill it for me! I was hoping I could use the A7S instead of the C100 for a lot of the work we do, but the ergonomics are.. baffling!

    The Sony A7S, with 4K external, 50Mb/s XAVC-s, insane low light, 60fps at full HD, full frame and APS-C options, easily wins in the specs and sensor department. But the C100, with internal ND, waveform monitor, absurd battery life that lasts all day, full articulating LCD, and no recording time limit, easily wins in the ergonomics and usability department. What a shame to cripple such a powerful engine!

  18. Chris says:

    Hey Erik, great look at some of the A7s shortcomings. I shoot more stills than video, and switched from the 5d2/3 to the A7/A7s because of the superior DR and better sensor on the stills side. I use a lot of manual glass for video (Zeiss C/Y) and the two f/4 zooms, the FE55 and the E mount 10-18 @ 12-16mm when shooting stills. To me if you’re not investing in native glass, the functionality of any camera is more limited, that’s why I pulled the trigger on the FE lenses. Even with the GH4 I couldn’t make do with all adapted lenses because of the crop factor – so for me I had to either go all in with M43 or Sony. Because the stills are so much better, I went with the A7 series. My plan is to get an external recorder for 4k prores, so the Shogun is something I plan to buy regardless of camera.

    Its a frustrating little bugger, because it produces such fantastic images – both stills and video. Having to figure out workarounds for some of the issues that are just silly, recording with the shutter and WB are the most frustrating for me. Hopefully a firmware update will address many of them. I had a go with the GH4, but the noise above ISO 800 drive me nuts and the stills were just meh. Despite a lower MP count, the A7s stills are more detailed than the GH4 when I compared side by side with the same Zeiss lens, and the raw’s have 2-3 more stops to lift shadows and bring down highlights without introducing noise.

    I’m betting the rumored A99mk2 will do internal 4K and drop tat Photokina, leading to another round of upgrade-itis. BTW, I ordered a Rode Lav for the A7s, since the internal audio is so good, after reading and listening to your review.

  19. Pete says:

    Thanks for a great review more of the reasons for getting a specific camera than the functional details. A very important part of the process. I’m thinking in exact these terms and I believe the A7S is a fantastic camera but Sony are only targeting pros or rich people with it. The amount of money you need to spend on native lenses with working auto focus and stabilisation is incredible compared to other systems. A wonderful camera body but with the hassle of adapters and completely manual lenses puts it off my radar for the time being. The wonderful high ISO feature is not worth the total system cost right now.

    • Erik Naso says:

      You’re welcome Pete!
      Sony wants to be in the pro full frame camera market but unlike Canon and Nikon they have very few choices in lenses to offer and decided to use a different type of auto focus too. I don’t have any native lenses for E-Mount and even current Alpha owners will have to buy new ones if they upgrade to the A7s. Hey it’s only money!

  20. DanteC says:

    How does the GH4 stack up to the A7s in studio lighting? I love the image on the quick spot you did for your news channel, looks almost as sharp and detailed as the C100 you use, but the GH4 i wonder if it looks to videoish and how well it grades. Nice videos and great review.

    • Erik Naso says:

      I dont get the videoish statement that gets tossed around a lot. I think this is because of the sensor size that gives you less Shallow DOF. That’s been a trade off since the first GH camera including the AF-100.

      The GH4 footage grades fine. If you use a external recorder you can get 10 bit 4:2:2. Is that good enough?

    • s says:

      If you want the GH4 to look cinematic (and are prepared to deal with manual focus/aperture) try one of the Voigtlander m43 lenses. The 42.5 in particular can produce stunning cinematic footage with relative ease. Very very shallow DOF and nice tone to the image.

  21. Harvey Mann says:

    HI Erik…As I mentioned earlier I have the GH4 on order. was considering an A7s but the things you have mentioned would really drive me nuts, plus it seems to have some color issues as well…as sort of yellow gold cast, looks nice but sometimes you dont want that.
    Here is a link to another site where the guy is saying the same sorts of things about the A7s…word is getting round that its not all low light full frame fun.
    http://www.reddit.com/r/Filmmakers/comments/2a574a/sony_a7s_ergonomicsusability_first_impressions/

    • Erik Naso says:

      WoW! He was much more blunt than I was. LOL!

      • Harvey Mann says:

        Ha ha Yeah he was…Actually I found the whole review very very funny, you could kind of feel his frustration growing as the review went on, pretty hilarious really.
        Some of his metaphors like “asshole on your elbow” and “ain’t that some shit” and the way he used them were just too hilarious.
        I haven’t laughed that hard for ages.
        Still interested in checking the cam out tho, but it’s good to know the weaknesses as well as the strengths.
        Anyway keep up the good work.

  22. Martin says:

    Thanks Erik for these reviews, they are greatly appreciated and I check back often so keep up the great work. I myself, purchased the GH4 and love it… That’s until I received the A7S. Both cameras have their strengths and weaknesses, but I chose to hang on to my A7S solely based on the low light capabilities. Love the GH4, but can’t afford to keep them both :(.

    Cheers from Canada!

    • Erik Naso says:

      Thanks Martin!

      The A7s is starting to grow on me. It’s a strange camera but still has issues outside of the image. I do like the IQ and yes the low light performance is insane.

  23. eliot graeme says:

    ugh, fully articulated screens drive me NUTS! but i also dont do video.. i suppose if i did, the tilt screens would drive me bonkers :D

    i use my a7s for street and general stroll photography. being able to shoot low light, deep dof, and decent shutter speeds is very nice!

    i dislike not being able to use the filters while shooting raw. i just want it as a preview, like you can use SEPIA or VIVID or NATURAL modes. that way i can get a general idea of a ridiculously contrasty look, or very vignetted look.

    i also dislike that the format function is too buried feeling.

    its always interesting what quirks different people out about cameras :D

    • Erik Naso says:

      What lenses do you use with the A7s?
      I got burned on filters with the GH3 shooting RAW. I was very disappointed when none of them actually worked. Had a bunch of nice tilt shift effects on top of the Space Needle. Oh Well….

  24. Kirill says:

    Just picked up my a7s 3 days ago (along with the dji ronin, happy coincidence), and already been putting it through its paces for these 3 days straight. A lot of the points you make I’ve latest come across myself. I haven actually taken a single exposure tho and it’s been all video.

    What I AM finding great about the camera is that it seems to be “the” perfect camera for the ronin without going crazy and mounting my fs700 to it (original camera I was gonna use on it). The thin size is great and makes it super light. I attach the metabones speedbooster, throw on the EF 16-35, switch to crop mode and I have a wonderful looking wide to standard angle gimbal setup. Before people get into the ronin is overkill for the small a7s… I disagree. Cheaper than the Movi, more reliable than the be steady, freakin looks cooler (all the black and red with the l series!) and when need be, I can mount my fs700… Tho honestly I’m thinking I won’t unless I need 4k raw (before the shogun at least).

    Given the low light, I think I can even pick up a few of the cheaper e-mounts that aren’t as fast and with crop mode it will look great. And then if I DO need full frame for a shot, that’s still there. I actually noticed that there even seems to be some autofocus going on with the speed booster/16-35, which was nice and unexpected.

    It’s only been 3 days, so I’m definitely in the “honeymoon” phase as said above, but I think that even with the short comings of ergonomics etc (coming from m3 for stills), I definitely consider it to be the best overall “hybrid” camera. At least for what I do (you can check out some clips I did at night if the ronin+a7s combo on my linked site).

    The slog tho… What are you using as a LUT?

  25. ShootSharp says:

    I’m not seeing evidence of lost highlights in S-Log2, i’ve been able to blow my highlights to hell and still bring them back in some instances. the only issue that really bothers me is that custom white balance isn’t possible in S-log2 mode or movie mode. you have to switch to M A S or P and then either turn off picture profiles or any profile other than #7. THEN i can switch back to movie mode. I find that ridiculous.

    • Erik Naso says:

      That drives me nuts too. I sure hope Sony can fix the that in a firmware update.

      In Slog2 to get a white balance that doesn’t error out and turn green you have to overexpose by a minimum of two stops. Even then it has a problem.

  26. Hi Erik:

    Thanks for your nice review. I am not a fan boy of any brand just like you aren´t. I have been buying Panasonic since I first started with GH1 up until now with GH4. I love this camera. It records 4K in not such a big file size and it has amazing features that aren´t availabe on my 1DC. People love 1DC but I rarely shoot 4k just for the size of the files and the price of the 128gb cards I am forced to use with it. Even with 4 128gb cards on a normal shoot that last a whole day I have sometimes to backup data and format cards and the space problem is not even starting as I first convert everything to 4k prores before editing. You see where I am going here. One problem I see with the GH4 (nothing is perfect) is that is not low light sensitve enough (noisy) even when used with my Voigtlanders 17.5mm 25mm and 42.5mm 0.95. But up until now I managed to get a decent compromise. I got one of the first Sony 7s here and I love the low light but the colors aren´t my favourite ones. On the GH4 while I shoot quite flat and I can bring some vivid amazing film like colors and texture in post I didn´t succeed to do it with the Sony. About the 4K I think although it might be far away from having a 4k standard if we ever have it (broadcaster are thinking about a 1080p upgraded format) it is nice to have even if just to crop and reframe like you said. If you check my website http://www.polycordfilmworks.com you will see my gear and I can tell you from all the stuff I have there most of the times due to budget restrictions on the customer side and others, 80% of my work is done with C100 ,GH4 and other small cameras. The RED is a camera that sits on the shelf most of the times mainly not because of its quality of course but mainly due to the troublesome and expensive workflow. Even with Arri Alexa 99% of the shoots are prores and 1080p. Strangely I got used to the smaller cameras and I reallize that I even find the BMC too bulky to work with a small crew. I prefer to setup a shot in 5 mns than in an hour. A bigger camera can´t be carried setup…it has to be assembled and rigged along with all the portabilty issues inherent. To me there isn´t a perfect or ideal camera but we are getting there. I think it could be a GHX with a bigger and more sensitive sensor and with the capability of RAW recording( but I don´t se Panasonic dropping M43). I really miss the times when we bought a camera and kept it for 4-5 years before someone said we had an obsolete camera. I wouldn´t mind paying higher prices but a little bit more longevity would be great. For those who like bigger cameras the BM Ursa will surely be a great contender if the sensor is not like the Production camera with those max ISO 800 and almost blind…

    • Abel says:

      So in terms of workflow and data management, you’re saying you can’t beat the GH4 ease of use? Is the low light performance really that bad on the gh4?

      do you recommend the a7s w/ shogun even with all the data headaches?

      • Erik Naso says:

        4K with the GH4 will give you approximately 90 minutes on a 64 gig card. Not bad. Way better than ProRes in 4K

        The GH4 compared to the new bread of cameras makes the lowlight performance underwhelming. With that said I dont usually need more than ISO 800. I use lights. Mainly a couple ARRI 650′s in soft boxes for interviews and spread them out for larger multi person type shots or bounce them into a corner for more spread. This is with room lights off. Works fine. You need to think about how you shoot with other cameras and the ISO levels you used. Do you need to shoot at ISO 1600, 3200? If that is the norm then yo either dont have lights or you shoot run and gun doco stuff. A C100/C300 is a better choice.
        Cinematography is about lighting. You have to use it. I have four 1K fresnel that I probably have used maybe twice in past two years.

        I’m still not sold on the A7s. I dont like external records. Thats a big one. The Shogun also comes with a very big monitor. I like that! but it’s huge and you will need a rig to manage it. I also use a cage for my GH4 with a Jucedlinked Riggy for audio when I have a sound guy with me so I guess thats not a big deal. It’s a must with using a external recorder and the Mico HDMI has to be locked with a pinch for safety. I say rent both and see. I’m happy with my GH4 setup right now. It’s cheaper to use than the A7s too.

  27. Hi Eric:

    From your review what you need is to get an F5. I don´t think Sony should crossover their range of cameras. The A7S has one good enough reason to be bought whch is the low light. I bought one and I am ok with it. For some things I have the A7S others the GH4 or the C100. Even to others the red epic. None will replace the other and if one manufacturer would make one camera which is perfect or gathers the best of all (I know we would like that) they would ruin the sales of all the other camera even their own. I used the A7S side by side with Alexa (and NOT wanting to compare them of course), the A7S did an outstanding job. Do you think that any manufacturer in their own mind would want to sell one Alexa at $2500? I don´t think so. Even looking at the TV promos you did I would never ever could guess which camera was shot with. So something has to be very well done on the camera. Thank you for the review.

  28. Abel says:

    I’m prepping/producing a microbudget feature (multi-cam) and although I like the specs on the GH4 I am shooting a contained thriller (w/ low light conditions) and think the a7s low light capability would come in handy, then again, maybe taking the time to light proper might make up the difference?

    That being said, being able to crank out a 4K (even if with the additional rental of Shogun) makes me lean towards the a7s but considering the workflow/pipeline of dealing w/ a external SSD and all those headaches compared what appears to be a really simple 4K GH4 / flash card setup; do you guys and gals recommend dealing w/ the SSDs or just stick w/ the “simpler” GH4 for it’s data/footage management considering the small, bare-bones team we’ll be running?.

    I know about the dynamic range tradeoffs if I don’t use an external recorder w/ the GH4 and am fine with it.

    Has anyone here worked on a production with either? What type of issues have you encountered that you think might kill/hamstring a production?

    Any insight appreciated.

    More info on filming conditions: Filming inside a car, lighting may resemble a Buried meets Locke look but we will be in a closed set so we should get some fine control on lighting conditions thus making the a7s not as apparent a winner? Thoughts?

    • Erik Naso says:

      A A7s and Shogun together cost around $5000. That doesn’t include a ton of batteries and the media and drives you will need for 4K capture.

      Use lights not high ISO.

      I’m shooting a three camera show right now with the GH4 in 4K and it’s been working great. Couldn’t be happier.

      • Hi Abel:

        I shot a TV series (4 x 1hur episodes) which are being broadcast in primetime TV. Everybody loved the look and not even 1 person even got close to guess which camera it was filmed with. I used an hacked GH2 and a AF-101(european version). The image was gorgeous and clean although it was a little too contrasty for my taste. The GH3 had a few improvements and GH4 even more including also the 4k resoluiton which is amazing. I still love the GH color but I can´t compare the dynamic range with the A7s. There are a few color rendition issues on the Sony but I don´t think there is much to be done. I still think that if you use a C100 you will have excellent results and less “risky”. What I mean by this is not knowing extremely well the GH4 and A7S and its limitations we might have the problem of going totally wrong or totally right. On the GH4 you might get a very noisy image or some skin tone problems. On the A7S color rendition problems and some color channel shifting. I would use some more light but I can´t resist a godd color grading challenge with a see-more-than-eye sensor :-)
        Good luck with your choice.

        P.S. – Shogun is not selling yet and no one has ever tested it so I don´t know if it will work or not. What I tested was recording 4k through a blackmagic and it is not the right soluiton (not practical)

        • Abel says:

          Eric & Augusto,

          Thanks so, so much for your insight. It really helps.

          Definitely, my ideal choice would be a c500 but it feels like I’m leaning towards the GH4. Just to be clear, I’m not buying ANY cameras. These are all going to be rentals. (just rented my gh4 and speedbooster to test out and it’s coming in mail)

          I’m renting EVERYTHING and based on $150 p/week for a gh4 (that means I could have 3 for under $500) or 1 c100 for $400 p/week (times 3= $1200) not including all the extra data drives and the amount of time for setup and harddrive dumps, etc. I really think the GH4 might be the right fit.

          I definitely want the best I can get but I see this a learning process and I’m thinking taking some care w/ the lighting and downing the 4k to 1080 will be okay but then I see this:

          http://nofilmschool.com/2014/08/low-light-showdown-sony-a7s-panasonic-gh4-red-epic-mx

          adn I kind of worry the noise will be terrible since it will be lowlight.

          regarding the Shogun, I’m planning to shoot in December so hopefully it’ll have some good testing time. Have the noise levels been an issue with you guys on the GH4 in low light? Even when downsampling from 4K to 1080 which apparently retains the dynamic range, is it just unusable? I’d really like to retain the range and and 4K but avoid the data hassle- probably no way around it tho

    • Carlos Martinez says:

      This thing about 4K and limited shooting time sounds to me quite similar to a dilemma I had for shooting RAW with the Blackmagic Pocket. In my case I solved it out by giving up on shooting RAW for now, and went for ProRes. Even so its about 40 minutes max shooting time is not that good for documentaries, at least the ones I shoot. So I will pick a Ninja very soon.

      I believe recording in SSD, internal or external, is the way to go. So if the Sony or the Pana allow you that, that’s the path I would choose. No need to think much about it.

      • I am almost sure that this time next year there will be full frame low light cameras shooting RAW. Big companies will mass produce small amazing cameras and S35 snsors soon will be past. It happened with 16mm and S16 so 35mm sensors will be replaced by FF.65mm sensors will be the new Full frame. This is the future (short distance). The market belongs to companies like Panasonic, Canon and Sony. As a good friend told me a couple of years ago… a cinema camera will be a lens with a sensor on one end…and everyday I confirm he was right. :-)

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