So I have had my A7s for 10 days now. I took it on holiday with me shooting both stills and video, getting a feel for the camera in a wide range of situations from brilliant sunshine to shooting under candlelight.
It has been an absolute delight using it, with one small caveat: No ND filters built in and boy, does this camera need ND filters! I see that there are now some lens adapters with ND faders built in from Fotodiox and HolyManta. I hope to test these soon, but these ND adapters are dumb adapters so only for fully manual lenses. So a set of front of lens ND’s or a good ND fader is essential to get the best from the A7s.
Lens wise I don’t have the greatest range of full frame lenses. I have my Samyang 24, 35 and 85mm full frame primes which work really well with the camera and the Sony 28-70mm f3.5-f5.6 kit lens and some old f1.4 nikkors. Actually the kit lens has really surprised me, for what it is, it does give a nice image. Almost all my lenses are Canon EF mount so I have been using an adapter. The one I have is the Commlite Full frame E to EF smart adapter, which has worked perfectly (it supports a wider range of lenses than my early model metabones adapter). For some longer focal lengths I’ve been playing with the new Tamron 16-300mm APS-C lens. One side note is that if you use an APS-C lens with a 1.4x teleconverter, in most cases the image circle will then fill the full frame sensor. I will be testing this further and posting some sample images soon. This might be handy for 4K video when you really need to use the full sensor.
Anyway, back to the camera. I had forgotten how nice full frame can be to work with. For photo’s the shallow DoF is a delight. For video you have much greater control over your DoF. As the camera is 3200 ISO you can shoot in the dark with ease and get very natural looking images without having to add extra light. SLog2 is great for capturing a huge dynamic range video. Today and tomorrow I am pushing the Slog2 though some torture and exposure tests to find the exposure sweet spot for Slog2 and 8 bit recordings. I’m also developing some LUT’s to use with the camera and I’ll have a full workflow guide to slog2 on the A7s in the next couple of weeks.
I really love that this little camera can shoot video that is of really remarkably good quality. Most people don’t realise your shooting video with it. It’s really quite scary just how good the video is, it’s starts you thinking… do I need an F5 when the video from the A7s is so good? But then when I started to set up the A7s for my Slog2 torture tests and added a monitor, the battery to power the monitor, rods, matte box, external recorder etc it soon turned into a frankenstien monster of a camera rig. The F5 is so much nicer to use in this respect. For casual shooting, covert filming or as a grab camera the A7s is pretty incredible and I will use it for a lot of things, but it’s not a replacement for my F5/R5.
One very nice feature of the A7s is the silent shutter stills mode. In this mode the camera makes use of the sensors electronic shutter rather that the cameras mechanical curtain shutter. This is great for time-lapse as you won’t wear out the mechanical shutter. The only down side is that when I use a DSLR for time-lapse I often make use of the large frame size from a 24MP or more sensor to re-frame or pan and scan the shot in post. The A7s is only 12.2MP or 4,240 x 2,832 pixels so very little room for re-framing in a 4K production, although not too bad for an HD programme. I wish the vanilla A7 had this feature, it would make it a great time-lapse camera. One application I’m very excited about is using the A7s to shoot the northern lights in both time-lapse and real time next year during my Northern Lights expeditions and workshops.
Keep an eye out for my Slog2 guide in the next week or so where I’ll document my findings on how to get the very best from the A7s. It’s an amazing little camera. Can’t wait for the 4K recording options for the camera to become a reality. Maybe we will find out more at IBC.