Rumors have been surfacing regarding the Sony A7sIII or A7sIV, or whatever they call it.
Sony fans have been waiting, waiting and waiting for this unicorn to come home to roost, but will it be the second coming of Christ like so many people are expecting?
My answer, of course it will be! I’m a blogger and ever Sony camera is the second coming of Christ and the best camera ever made, buy them all right now here at Amazon! (affiliate link) 🙂
But seriously here are some of my rambling dyslexic thoughts on the matter.
The Problem For Sony With Their A7sIII / A7sIV
There are some problems with Sony now with this video camera and they now face some fierce competition.
Mainly, the $2k Sigma fp is recording internal CinemaDNG at 8-bit with external CinemaDNG at 12-bit with crazy uncompressed bitrates to SSD drives that connect via USB-C. Why more people are not talking about this camera blows my mind.
The Panasonic S1H, is a 6k camera and is Netflix approved and has all the video capabilities features you could really ask for, for your standard filmmaking needs. No 120fps 4k, but 4k60 is great which is really not something you need when shooting, “Full House,” season II.
The Nikon Z6 with their very video-friendly silent Z lenses that don’t focus breath and their ProResRAW to an Atomos V.
Then Canon has an 8k camera with 4k120p rumored. Likely a massive crop on that 4k120.
So what can Sony do?
They Can’t Win On Resolution
If they go 6k to match Panasonic then they need about 19MP and they lose that low light advantage from having the smaller pixel pitch.
The whole thing with the Sony A7sII was the low light capabilities. They lose that, they’re just another kid on the block.
If they stick with 4k, they lose all marketing advantages of winning the K’s since Panasonic does 6k now. So they will have to push that 4k is good enough, even though the upcoming Olympics will be broadcasted in 8k in Japan. This might not be a problem though, because it will likely be Sony 8k broadcast cams covering the event.
I wonder if the A7rIV with a firmware update could do 8k video? That would be cool.
They Can’t Win On Codecs & Compression . . . Maybe
Again, Sigma, Nikon and Panasonic are hard to beat here.
Sony also has a video codec issue. They still refuse to adopt modern video codecs and bitrates in these mirrorless cameras. Today their flagship A9II still only produced 8-bit at a measly 100Mbps, which is pretty much the worst video spec offered by any modern non-entry level camera, let alone flagship.
Does Sony just refuse to license H.265, like the MP3 days? Are they trying to invent their proprietary compression that will eventually not be adopted by anyone and just cause disruption and complication within the industry, again, like the MP3 / ATRAC days?
Or, maybe they invent the next best thing, like in the BlueRay days.
Sony is not one to license other technologies. They like to be leaders and innovators and control the tech, but so far, they have nothing. Maybe, this is what they are waiting for.
CinemaDNG is being adopted by the L-Mount alliance. Nikon and Canon haven’t adopted H.265 in their full-frame systems yet like Fujifilm and Panasonic have in their video-focused cameras, but Nikon is now using ProResRAW if you send your camera in for a firmware update and get an Atomos external recorder. That’s pretty hard to beat and the Z6 is no slouch either with its 3.2″ 2m-dot LCD which is great for camera operators.
So maybe the time for some breakthrough in some new HEVC H.265 compression has passed. Today’s cameras are offering RAW video out and in Sigma’s case, CinemaDNG video internally to UHS-II cards. Maybe there is room for a new codec here, but it will be difficult to beat Apple with their ProRes, and who knows what else Avid has up their sleeve.
Maybe they have a better version of ProResRAW in the works that is licensable and works on other systems besides just Final Cut Pro. That could be game-changing, because right now with the Nikon, ProResRAW only works with FCP, which is super dumb.
Then There Are Marketing Problems
Sony also has a huge problem regarding codecs and compressions. If they do something amazing here, they might not be able to come out with big marketing splash because by doing that, they’ll have to educate everyone on why bitrate is actually important, and if they do that, they shine a huge spotlight on the absolutely horrible video specs all their current cameras have compared to the competition. Unless it’s some RAW compression, then they don’t need to even talk about bitrate, they just say RAW video. Problem solved.
What Sony Can Do To Generate Hype?
It’s going to be very difficult for Sony to get people as excited as they were when the A7sII came out since there are so many cameras now that just do things so well. But there are a few things Sony can do that could be really cool, like a nice usable RAW video codec.
or. . .
Keep It A Low Light Beast
I think they will have to keep the camera at 4k to keep that low light advantage and they will push that in their marketing campaign extremely hard.
They Need 4k120p
With a 12MP-20MP sensor, they’ll be more likely to get extremely fast sensor readout speeds which means they might be able to pull off 4k120.
As you know, Sony is big on marketing, their cameras need to be marketing hype machine and they can’t do that without low light bedazzle and 4k120. So I think we’ll see at least one of those two things and possibly some new RAW codec.
But here is another thing. Everyone always praising Sony for thinking that they are throwing the whole kitchen sink into their cameras, but . . . are they secretly segmenting and intentionally crippling like Canon does?
I think so.
Sony Is Segmenting Like Canon – So Don’t Get Your Hopes Up
I think they don’t want to make these mirrorless cameras too good because their Cinema cameras are amazing but also affordable enough for the hardcore prosumer.
Plus they can’t cannibalize their NXCAM because they still need all the adult film production companies to buy both photo and video cameras separately. Which I’m sure is a huge market but kept on the down-low.
The Sony FX9, for example, at $10k has a 6k full-frame sensor with 15 stops of dynamic range and is capable of 10-bit 4:2:2 sampling and get this, can record at 600Mbps.
Clearly Sony can do it. But will they in the A7sIII?
And, again, that Sigma fp is one hell of a beast and only $2,000.
What Sony Is Capable Of Doing But Won’t
Sony could change the body, make it bigger and adopt CFexpress cards. But I doubt they will do this. No 4k120 or 6k will probably mean they might not have thermal issues. Maybe a few mm here and there, but it’s unlike Sony to completely redesign their cameras.
They Could Add CFexpress but I highly doubt they will add CFexpress cards for high bitrate or raw video because it would require a redesign of the body. Again, they have to keep the bitrate down because they can’t destroy their FX9, and they are probably bitter about CFexpress bitch slapping their XQD format. But who knows, CFexpress is an open format so anyone can use it royalty-free.
They could add a fancy new screen – But there is just no way. Maybe they use the 1.5m-dot screen of the A7rIV, but I actually think Sony uses inferior screens and EVFs in a lot of their cameras so they can dedicate that processing power for other things. Like think about it, what would take up more CPU, rendering out a display that’s 2m-dot like the Z6, or doing a 900k-dot screen like the A7III. And you notice in that older machine, the focus boxes are still very responsive and animates with a very fast refresh rate which gives the illusion that it’s doing more than it really is. Like on my A7rIII, my camera AF definitely cannot keep up with the boxes that are being drawn on the screen.
They could add a fancy new EVF – now I have to give Sony credit here with the A9II. They added the top-tier best EVF out there in the A9 II to put them on par with Panasonic. But, they probably won’t do this with a video camera since video shooters don’t need the EVF so much. They will likely keep the same EVF as the A7rIII.
So my prediction, or at least what makes sense
Color – I think there will be a big leap forward with their color technology on this camera, maybe something to do with HDR. They improved the color gradation/rendering in their A9 via firmware last year and added more improvements to the A7rIV and A9II. If they actually have some quad Bayer sensor, it’s possible it will give them even better control over color, and maybe eliminate the need for AA filters.
4k60p – Probably no 4k120. Even the GoPros aren’t doing 4k120 yet. But this depends on if Canon really makes that 4k120 camera full-frame or with a crop. I think if Sony can’t do full-frame 4k120p, they won’t do it at all.
12MP-15MP Low Light Beast – rumors are looking like this is still the case. This will be amazing. Plus, new AD converters and new processors will make it so much better.
Same Body As A9II – But probably a cheaper EVF.
Adopting 10-bit – but only H.264. I would hope a 400Mbps bitrate, especially now that their latest cameras are writing to dual UHS-II cards at 200MB/s, so no problems here. But they can’t get too close to FX9 territory which is 10-bit 4:2:2 600Mbps. Or maybe they can since the FX9 is 6k.
No way a global shutter. We need 4k120 before we need global shutters, so no.
A Lot More Gimmicks: They will hit us with some incredibly ridiculous gimmick like saying this “new quad Bayer sensor give 6k resolution in a 4k file.” Or you know, the same kind of ridiculous things Fujifilm says about their X-Trans sensor. “It simulates random color patterns so there is no moiré,” no it doesn’t and yes there is.
So you’ll see people say, “well look at this Sony, it’s only 4k video, but you get the detail of an 8k camera. So it’s technically 8k.” That will be great. 🙂
Or remember? “our 61MP Sony A7rIV is Medium Format Quality.” Then everyone goes out and repeats all this instead of calling them out for it and the Angry Photographer gets pissed. 🙂
So we get a 4k60, maybe a 4k120 low light beast of a camera. This means it needs to be no more than $3k for it to be amazing top-seller. Maybe they use a slightly larger sensor for a 4k120 crop. I would be pretty happy with that, but if they could do 4k120 full-frame, then this camera would be killer. They just really have to improve their bitrate and codecs to stay competitive.