It's been almost three years since the announcement of the A7SII. Time has passed, new cameras have been released, new technology has been developed. Now, what do we want out of the A7SIII?
It’s been almost three years since the A7SII was announced. At the time, Sony ruled the Mirrorless camera scene, and in many ways they still do. The problem is that it could change any day now. The date is August 24th and Nikon just announced their two new, and a first for them, mirrorless cameras yesterday(the 22nd). These are the first entries into the full frame mirrorless cameras outside of the Sony umbrella, so the competition is something new, at least on the photography side. But I’m not so much interested in the photography side, as that’s not really what the A7SIII is about; I’m interested in the video. So with the impending announcement, what is on my Sony A7SIII Wish List? Keep reading to find out!
The Sony A7S series are known for their Low Light capabilities.
The Sony A7S series cameras have been known for their abilities to “see in the dark”. Super clean, low noise images into the ISO/Gain realm that’ll make your head spin; That same ISO/Gain on any other camera would remind you of an early 90’s low budget horror film on VHS played with a dirty head[NOISE].
This “Feature” made the A7S/A7SII a hot commodity for low budget/nobudget films and Hollywood hits alike. That paired with a short flange to adapt any lens in existance, SLOG, Clean HDMI out, 4K and up to 120FPS, made these cameras absolute monsters. But, with so much comes some serious shortcomings.
It’s been a few years, and a lot of progress has been made in the Digital Imaging realm, so with innovation and industry growth, we can only hope the new iteration brings many new and welcomed updates.
What's the competition?
In terms of pure feature set, very few cameras are able to go head to head against the Sony A7S series, but there are a few. The big competitor is going to be the Panasonic GH series cameras. With their endless feature set focused around Video, it’s almost the perfect camera except one major flaw; Micro 4/3’s. Without getting into to much detail, in my eyes, if this camera had a Full Frame, or even an APS-C sized sensor, it would be almost perfect, but alas, we couldn’t be so lucky.
Next up we have… Well, to be honest, in this form factor, we have other Sony cameras, Lower end Panasonic, Olympus, and even Samsung, but none live up to the stigma brought on by the Sony A7S series cameras. The next best option would probably be the 2018 Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera, but now we’re branching into another realm of film/video focused cameras.
So what's on my Sony A7SIII Wish List?
I am very much a hobbyist when it comes to video work. I find enjoyment in it and use it as a release; an outlet to let go of my problems and create something without limitations. This normally means that what I need, want, and can afford are drastically different than that of the “Pros”. While I want to talk price first, I will save that for the end and instead talk feature set. An expected feature would be HLG, or Hybrid Log Gamma for HDR content. This will be a great addition for greater dynamic range and image quality overall, but this brings me into my second wish; 10Bit recording.
10-Bit 4:2:2 External Recording
I’d love to see 12bit 4:4:4 internal or external recording, but i’m not crazy. That sh*t wouldn’t fly in a camera of this nature, so I’ll be happy if I see 8bit 4:2:2 internal and 10bit 4:2:2(maybe even 4:4:4!?) external recording through HDMI. To me, having HDR/HLG is worthless without a wider color bit depth and more data being saved in general, and while most people wouldn’t have a need for this, if you do anything with Chroma Key, having 10bit makes a world of difference.
Actual Aspect-Ratio options
Next up, I would love to see variable Aspect Ratios. The Panasonic GH5 already has there where you can choose from more than just the standard run-of-the-mill SD, HD, and 4K aspect ratios. I would love to see built in 4:3 for anamorphic work, 2.39:1, 2:1, and 1.85:1, all of these already supported by the competition of the GH5.
Optional Filter Mount
A long shot request would be a filter slot/adapter of sorts for stuff like ND filters, or better yet, a built in variable ND filter. I know this one is a tall order to fill and isn’t even included on all of the top of the line cinema cameras, but I would love to see a better way of integrating filters.
3G/6G-SDI or HDMI 2.0
Another long-shot, 3G(or 6G)-SDI. While I love the robustness of HDMI, I hate how fragile it is. I feel like if I hit the cable wrong it’s going to break off in the camera. Even with a cable lock, I feel like it could fall out of the camera. So, give me a mini SDI output so that I could plug into my BlackMagic Video Assist monitor. Not only could the inclusion of a SDI out provide greater security of a cable popping out, but it could also provide greater bit depth, more external frame rate options, better sub-sampling options, and the list goes on. A worthy alternative to an SDI output would be HDMI2.0. This would/could resolve the Bitdepth and subsampling limitations of the current iterations while maintaining potential 4K60P output.
Ergonomics & Design
This one is short, sweet and simple. Take a note out of the new Nikon releases and add a small top LCD screen into the mix. When I’m recording I normally have a monitor attached through HDMI using Clean uncompressed output, and the rear screen is normally blocked by some sort of breakout box with battery, mic pre-amps, etc, so I can’t see the screen regardless. To be frank, it sucks that I am unable to see what my current Apature, White balance and ISO are set at. Sure I can “Set it and forget it”, but what If I need to make a change in between shots? I can try and look at the monitor; That is, unless the viewfinder is activated, then I’m SOL(Sh*t outa luck).
Give me a dedicated exposure dial(Again), as well as a second programmable dial. Take this from the book on the A9 with it’s second(or third) dial. Let me control my aperture with the top dial and i’ll use the Exposure compensation to auto control the ISO.
Joy Stick & Touch Screen – This is more for Run-And-Gun shooting like documentaries. While i’ve been talking about features that are dedicated towards full video rigs, it’s nice to have options. I would like to see the ability to use either a joystick or touch screen to select a focus point. The Dial just doesn’t cut it.
Please don't break the bank.
OK, I guess I’ll address the elephant in the room. I’ve been saying a lot of more premium features for a camera that is more Consumer than Professional. Sony can’t be losing money, but if it costs to much no one will buy it. The first Sony A7S was released with a price of $2500. With the A7SII was very similarly priced, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the new variation comes in right at that $2500 price point.
Thinking about that $2500 price point, I can comfortably say that I would be very happy with the purchase. With that said, If everything on this Wish-list was addressed, I would be pretty happy paying just a bit more, up to the $2700 price point, but much above that and I start to question my sanity.
One thing Sony Needs to consider with the pricing is what the competition is releasing. Taking a look at the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k, it’s price is under $1300 and offers everything I want and would need, except the low light capabilities and with a substantially smaller sensor. Similarly, the Panasonic GH5/5S with prices of $1700/$2300 respectively, are very enticing for what they offer, but again lacking low light capabilities and housing a small sensor.
I’m excited to see what Sony’s final entry of the third generation of the A7 series cameras. It could end up being an incredible camera or a major flop. At this point, I am leaving my opinions and predictions open until the official release. Until then I’ll continue using my A6300 with the occasional A7SII camera rental.