The Sony A7SIII was just announced and for the discerning videographer, it’s pretty jaw-dropping. Everything everyone has been asking for has been addressed.
Well . . . almost.
They’ve improved the bitrate, improved the frame rate, added 10-bit 4:2:2 internal, it has the newer body and ergonomics of the Sony A7rIV, dual SD and CFexpress type A card slots, incredible best in class EVF, improved the IBIS ( a little ), improved dynamic range with a new BSI sensor with faster readout speeds and a new menu screen redesign.
What more could you want?
For the average Joe, it seems like it has everything right? Well except for a good 3.2″ screen with 2m-dot. Yes, they have stuck with the consumer-grade 3.0″ screen at 1.5m-dot. This blows my mind for a video focused camera where the screen is so important on the fly.
Price and Specs
See all the specs here at B&H
Now The Buts . . .
I have a few issues with this camera which all stems from the price.
The camera costs $3500. Yes, that’s expensive. This is edging dangerously closer to what actual prosumer video cameras are selling for which offer more features and options like built-in ND filters and XLR support.
A serious cinematographer might be tempted to just make that jump to a pro camera for the improved image quality and on-camera features.
The image quality is still not to pro standards for internal recording like you would get from a Black Magic, Red, or even a Canon C500 II or Sony FX9. Many of which offer 6k or even 8k and internal RAW. The new Blackmagic now even offers 12k.
And of course, for the videographer that shoots shorter clips, there is the Canon R5 which is only a few hundred dollars more but is true hybrid system that is useful as a stills photography beast.
Another thing about the Sony A7sIII is those expensive CFexpress Type A cards that you have to have in some record modes. I’ve put up a full guide to Sony A7sIII memory cards here. It is a pretty complicated setup.
You guys that read my blog know I always complain a lot about bitrate, and it looks like Sony is still limiting our bitrate on this one, likely to protect their cine cams.
It’s way better than where the previous cameras were, but if you want to shoot 4k at H.265 you can only get 280Mbps. Mind you, this will likely give you a better-looking image than ProRes HQ so I’m not complaining. But, many other new cameras offer significantly better quality here including the Canon R5.
Will it be noticeable? I don’t know.
Don’t get me wrong though, 280Mbps is great, especially for the average Joe videographer that doesn’t want to buy a new 4TB hard drive every other week. Even I drop my video-bitrate to around 200Mbps on my X-T3 just because it’s good enough for most situations. It’s a nice compromise between file size and performance.
But having a higher option for more professional usage would have been nice, especially for VFX work.
So for a camera that’s aimed so hard at “filmmakers,” 280Mbps I think is a weak offering for H.265.
There is a 16-bit RAW out, so if you were to get an external recorder that supports that ( none currently exist ), then that’s a great image to pull from for the pro shooters.
But again, the price, once you buy your external recording, your audio recorders, your shoulder rigs, and cages, you’re variable ND filters, you’re getting into a pretty expensive setup.
Granted a somewhat comparable prosumer video camera like the Sony FX9 is around $10k and the Canon C500 II is $15k. So the A7sIII definitely has its place.
Here is another big BUT . . . or at least why I have no interest in this camera
I feel like the main draw to the A7sIII is its low light capabilities, which this series is known for, and now 4k 120p at 280Mbps? Two performance features that are seemingly now more common-place in the prosumer category and Sony is making us pay a lot of money for it.
Plus, the 280Mbps at 120p in 4K is actually quite low for a camera touting itself as the most capable 4K shooter on the market.
4k 120fps on the Sony gives you 2.3Mbps per frame. Yeah, I know it doesn’t work exactly that way, but still, using that math you can compare it to the Canon R5 4k 120p where you get 15.6Mbps per frame. That will be a dramatically better image from the Canon which only costs a few hundred more, but yeah, it overheats with long recordings.
The other thing is, and I know this camera is video-focused, but 12MP is very limited with its stills capabilities and you’re paying a lot of money for just low light and 4k 120p.
I’m not dogging the camera, I think it’s absolutely incredible and perhaps the most capable 4K camera on the market. But today there are a lot of options out that might be better for hybrid shooters, like the Fujifilm X-T4, or Panasonic S1 or S1H ( which offers more professional features such as zebra displays and anamorphic cropping). I think we will see a lot of better cameras in this grouping coming very soon, like the Nikon Z6s and the Sony A7IV.
The Sony A7sIII is very niche with that 12MP sensor. At this price point, I would’ve liked it if they pushed the megapixel count for those shooters wanting to get more into advanced videography but not sacrifice so much in the stills department. Also, adding 6K to be more competitive with the R5 would have been welcome or, otherwise, just make the camera cheaper as is.
I Would Wait For The Sony A7IV
Let’s hope most of these features make it into the perennial and hopefully upcoming A7IV. Likely all the Sony cameras moving forward will have these same video codecs and that Sony A7IV will likely be $1k cheaper. This will give you a much more diverse package, probably at the cost of some low light performance and that 4k120p. Even if the Sony A7IV doesn’t have a flippy screen, you can still get an external monitor for cheap and still come in at less than the A7sIII, but it will be a more useful hybrid system.
Plus, now that most people have a better understanding of how to light their shoots and LED lighting is relatively cheap, the low light features of the A7sIII are no longer as appealing as they were 5 years ago.
Sony A7sIII Final Thoughts
There is a lot of hype around this camera, especially for Sony shooters. Sony did it! They finally figured out high-quality video in a small package. I’m going to assume all their cameras going forward will share some of these specs. If they don’t Nikon and Canon will eat them for breakfast.
And this leaves me to my grand thesis. Wait for the Sony A7IV. The A7sIII is probably not worth it for most people because of the high price. I know if you shoot Sony it’s very tempting to jump into this system right now because this is the first time Sony has offered good video. But you’re really mostly paying for that 4k120p.
If the A7IV has a 24MP sensor, it will likely do 6k to compete with the Panasonic S1H, and it will still have great 10-bit 4:2:2 4k60p I would imagine. Plus, for me, 24MP is a great balance for resolution in stills photography.
Just my two cents.
This camera breaks my brain. I know it is an elite 4K shooting powerhouse but I can’t comprehend it at that price especially with the A7IV looming, perhaps, early next year to deal with the Canon R6 and the Nikon Z6s.