Sony Alpha 7s III - Low Light Specialist
Better Photography|February 2021
The long-awaited Sony Alpha 7S III comes over five years after its legendary predecessor. The scenario has changed since then. Does it still maintain its competitive advantage? K Madhavan Pillai finds out.
K Madhavan Pillai

With video, things seem to be back into the numbers game. 2k, 4K, 6K, and now 8K. When the Alpha 7S II launched five years ago, it was a market where professional 4K products were rare. The Alpha 7S III does not have the same, immediate benefit of a pristine market as its predecessor. 4K and UHD have now become common parlance with many cameras, and cellphones as well, and the ecosystem is maturing in India.

However, what many new buyers fail to consider are the enormous file sizes, massive storage, processing environment, and specialised displays and equipment needed to work with high quality, high resolution 8, 6 or even 4K footage. And when you are talking of a RAW workflow with cinema, that’s a whole different ball park.

As far as buying behavior and usage is concerned, the fact is that those who purchase 4K television sets in India today, do so because of smart marketing, and usually end up watching Full HD or HD content on them. Adoption of UHD or 4K is slowly taking off though, primarily with several over-the-top (OTT) media services offering 4K, and compatible streaming devices, more available over the last six months or so. Beyond all this, of course, is internet bandwidth, which is a whole different story. The fact remains that few in India have experienced the brilliance of well produced high quality 4K on a good 4K display. And I expect that it will be five years or more, before it becomes truly common in India.

So there is no doubt that 4K, more than 6 or 8K, is more relevant now than ever before. Sony’s strategy of making the Alpha 7S III (or A7S III) a low light 4K video specialist is right on the money. It takes what’s necessary and delivers it with a new level of finesse. Let’s take a look under the hood.

Features

There are a whole range of improvements in the A7S III that points to a camera built for handling a very wide variety of video situations, albeit with video at 4K. The A7S series was always characterised by its 12MP sensor that prioritised low light advantages over everything else. Rather than increase resolution, Sony decided to optimise the sensor as far as possible. The A7S III has an upgraded 12MP full-frame Exmor R image sensor with a back-illuminated structure. It basically moves the circuitry to the back to both double read-out speeds, and maximise the available area for exposure to light. This makes a big difference, especially with the dreaded rolling shutter issue that plague digital cameras at high sutterspeeds, both with videos and stills. The sensor boasts a very significant dynamic range of 15+ stops. A native ISO range from 80-102,400 is now available, expanded to 40-409,600. Unlike the previous edition, phase detection elements are now built into the sensor for phase detect AF at the focal plane. A BIONZ XR image processor (a dual processor setup) that is eight times faster than its predecessor, delivers excellent stills and video processing speeds, AF, and overall camera response.

In terms of video, a large level of functionality and selectable options are built in. Unlike most other camera, the A7S III can shoot UHD 4K at up to 60p from its full width (4.2K, to be exact) without binning, or at 120p (at a 1.1x crop but still a native 4K area of the sensor with no binning). These directly showcase the advantages of the significantly faster sensor readout speed. DCI 4k, at a slightly lower resolution than the full sensor width is not offered as an option. There is now a vast range of useful compression options and bitrates. The A7S III gain a 10-bit 4:2:2 version of the (H.264based) XAVC S encoding, and an H.265 variant called XAVC HS as well. There’s also an H.264 All-I option (for busy or critical scenes or shots, where all information is encoded into each frame) called XAVC S-I. Full HD is available as 2:1 oversampled video and should show exceptional quality and is available up to 240fps. Pertinently, there’s no H.265 option for 1080 video.

There is no RAW video recording enabled in-camera, but the A7S III is the very first camera to output 16-bit RAW at 4k60p via its HDMI 2.1 port. While Sony’s S-Log2 and S-Log3 allows the capture of an expanded dynamic range, the benefits of 16-bit remains to be seen though. And 16-bit RAW is not an option for stills capture.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM BETTER PHOTOGRAPHYView All

The World on Her Plate

Gilat Orkin’s artistic, and engaging sandwich sculptures weave together the best of creativity, history, and flavours. Nilofer Khan explores.

6 mins read
Better Photography
March 2021

Deconstructed Recipes

Mikkel Jul Hvilshoj talks about his love and passion for still life photography, and how he came to creating his deconstructed photographs of food.

3 mins read
Better Photography
March 2021

An Experimental Cookbook

Italian artists Cosimo Barletta and Mayda Mason speak about their mutual passion for different cuisines, and how they use their experiences and creativity to pay homage to it.

3 mins read
Better Photography
March 2021

Atypical Avatars of Food

For Benito Martin, food photography is rooted in the nostalgic and warm undertones of the 1970s and 80s aesthetic. This, along with his unique use of light and his quest towards pushing the boundaries of possibilities, renders a unique style to his photographs. He explains this and much more...

2 mins read
Better Photography
March 2021

In-Between Unreal Realities

With his enticing, mind boggling two and three-dimensional sculptures of various types of food, Daniel Gordon takes you on a journey into his wonderful world of illusions.

3 mins read
Better Photography
March 2021

Fujinon XF 50mm f/1 R WR: Big Lens with a Hefty Price

Conchita Fernandes tests the Fujinon XF 50mm f/1 R WR, the first ever f/1 lens for Fujifilm’s X-series mirrorless camera lineup.

3 mins read
Better Photography
March 2021

Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G: A Wide Wonderland

The Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G is nothing like what the company has so far offered in its prime lens lineup. Nilofer Khan puts it on BP’s test bench.

3 mins read
Better Photography
March 2021

Canon RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM: Best of Two Worlds

The Canon RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM offers a short telephoto field of view and has a macro capability of 1:2. Shridhar Kunte tests the lens.

5 mins read
Better Photography
March 2021

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G: Plenty To Play With

Nilofer Khan puts the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G to the test to find out if its camera is as good as it claims to be.

5 mins read
Better Photography
March 2021

Calling Attention to the Unremarkable

Discarded items take centrestage in Jiaxi Yang’s photographs of still life. By relocating them from their original contexts, she aims to call attention to the unexceptional, and at the same time, defamiliarise the ordinary.

1 min read
Better Photography
February 2021
RELATED STORIES

NETFLIX SCORES STREAMING RIGHTS TO NEW TOP SONY FILMS

Netflix further beefed up its film catalog on Thursday in a multi-year deal that will make it the new streaming home to Sony Pictures’ top releases in the U.S.

1 min read
Techlife News
Techlife News #493

AIRPODS MAX: OPULENT AUDIO THAT SHOULDN'T COST SO MUCH

APPLE’S HIGH-END HEADPHONES LOOK, SOUND, AND FEEL GREAT, BUT THE PRICE ISN’T RIGHT.

10+ mins read
Macworld
April 2021

An Exclusive Interview With Nandakumar Narasimhan

The Little Red Train

10+ mins read
Lens Magazine
March 2021

Sony WH-1000XM4 $348

AT FIRST GLANCE, you might not get the sense that these headphones contain some serious power under the hood, as this power is hidden under an elegant and sleek body. Its smooth matte monocolored finish pushes the idea that Sony wanted sophistication with substance.

1 min read
Maximum PC
April 2021

A Room for Dad

Before Mom passed, I made a promise to her

8 mins read
Guideposts
April 2021

THE DANGAL IN THE JUNGLE, PART 1

YOU KNOW YOU’RE SOMEBODY WHEN YOU’VE APPEARED ON AN INDIAN DANGAL POSTER — IN OTHER WORDS, IN A WRESTLING ADVERTISEMENT.

6 mins read
Black Belt
April/May 2021

WOUNDS AND THE WOMB

JULIE PETERS explores how to heal a relationship with the sacred womb, a place of death, life, and possibilities.

8 mins read
Spirituality & Health
Mar/Apr 2021

BE SQUIRRELY

Giant squirrels, giant lessons? Animal chaplain SARAH BOWEN explores what squirrels can show us about mindfulness.

4 mins read
Spirituality & Health
Mar/Apr 2021

E8 Caste and the Indian Tech Ivies

IIT grads are highly sought after in Silicon Valley. Are they bringing deep-rooted prejudices with them?

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
March 15, 2021

Life Changing

I was happily married, happily employed, just plain happy. Until the accident

8 mins read
Guideposts
February 2021