Don’t Panic! The A7S III didn’t just make your big pro camera obsolete.

Screenshot-2020-07-31-at-10.07.40 Don't Panic! The A7S III didn't just make your big pro camera obsolete.
Sony’s new A7S III video centric mirrorless camera.

So Sony have just launched the A7S III. And very impressive it is. Amazing low light performance, great dynamic range and lots of nice 10 bit codecs. You can even get a 16 bit raw output if you want. I can’t wait to get one. But I really don’t see the A7S III as a threat to or replacement of my FX9 or any other 4K professional video camera.

All the same discussions took place when the original A7S was launched. Sony F5 owners looked at the A7S and said – heck how can that little camera shoot full frame 4K while my camera can’t even shoot s35 4K. Why can the A7S have AF when my F3/F5 doesn’t. How can a camera that produces such beautiful images only cost 1/5th of what my F5 costs. But here we are 6 years on and the A7S and A7S II didn’t replace any of the bigger cameras and when the FS5 was launched people snapped up the FS5, often to replace an A7.

Why? Ergonomics.
 
I don’t ever want to go back to having to carry and use a big box of different ND filters for different light levels. I find the small LCD screen on the back of a DSLR to be of very limited use and while the A7S III does have a very good EVF it’s placement makes it hard to use it on a tripod or in anything other than a simple hand hold with the camera up against your face.
If you want to shoot log then you really want built in LUTs. There are the battery and power questions. How do you power the camera and accessories without needing two or more power systems or a rig to take a big external battery and a bunch of adapters? Then there’s having buttons and switches for all the frequently accessed functions. I could go on but you only have to look at the many franken-rigs that end up built around DSLR type cameras just to make them usable to see the problems. Almost always the first purchase to go with a DSLR is a cage. Why do you need a cage? Because you know your going to have to bolt a ton of stuff to that once small, portable camera to turn it into a professional video making tool.

 

Sure, I will almost certainly get an A7S III and it will be a great camera to compliment my FX9. And yes, there may even be some projects where I only take the A7S III, just as there have been shoots where I have used just my A7S. But it won’t ever replace my FX9, they are two very different tools, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

 

The image quality gap between traditional large professional video cameras and handheld stills type cameras will continue to get smaller and smaller as electronics continue to be further miniaturised, that is inevitable, but the cameras form factor will still be important.
 
The small cars of today often have all the same bells and whistles as a large luxury car of 10 years ago. Let’s say you’ve gone on vacation (remember those?) and it’s a road trip. You get to the car rental office and you have a choice between a large, spacious, stable, less stressed car or a small car that has to work a bit harder to get you to the same place. Both will get you there, but which do you choose? There might be some instances where the small car is preferrable, perhaps you will be in a lot of narrow city streets a lot. But for most road trips I suspect most people will opt for the big comfy cruiser most of the time.

For me the A7S III will be that nippy little car, a camera that I can pop in a pocket to grab beautiful images where I can’t use a bigger camera. But for my main workhorse I don’t want fiddly, I don’t want a ton of accessories hanging off it just to make it workable. I want the luxury cruiser that will just take it all in it’s stride and get on with the job and right now that’s my FX9.
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9 thoughts on “Don’t Panic! The A7S III didn’t just make your big pro camera obsolete.”

  1. I love your posts, as a professional I never think that a7s3 will be replace any other “real” camera like the FX9 or any other camera, not even the FS5. professionals always want a camera with a body like a camera. a7s3 is aimed for independent filmmakers producers with low budget. Sony aim for then otherwise they would turn to Canon. Now Sony have both markets, independent and professionals. Its marketing nothing more.

    At the end of the day, a professional will always want a professional body, an independent was never have the money for it so they will buy a little camera.

    Its perfect strategy, and Sony will became bigger and bigger.

  2. Thank you Alister for the sanity you provide. I was already going thru a spasm of “oh my God I have to get this…” I own an FS7 which I love to shoot with. Yes, it’s a bit “out-of-date” in a sense, but it still shoots what I think is a beautiful image.

    1. Exactly. Sure the A7S III is a very nice piece of kit and I’m sure we would all LIKE one. But that doesn’t mean you NEED one to make beautiful images. Any of the large sensor camera made in the last 6 years can produce amazing images, so really it comes down to you and how you choose to use it. Viewers don’t care what you use as long as it looks nice.

  3. Agree with everything above. For many, the FS5 also needs some extra rigging (namely, a recorder) to be workable as well. Though not to the same extent as these little mirrorless bodies. I look forward to the next generation of the FS5. Would gladly pay the extra money for the A7siii tech in an FS5 body.

    1. Given that the FS5 is in essence the sensor from an FS7/F5 paired with the processing and codecs of an A7S, now there is a new compact and low power processor and codec chip set it would not surprise me to see an FS5 replacement that. Perhaps it would just be an A7S III in a new body with XLR’s and a variable ND. Now that really would be a very nice camera.

      1. A7s iii internals in an FS5 body (including the subject tracking from the A7s iii and maybe the face priority/only function and LUT support of the FX9), that would be my absolute dream camera for documentary work. Very fast rolling shutter, 10 bit 422 up to 120p, all-I and h265 codec options, reliable autofocus, xlr’s and the auto ND. Although the FX9 sensor in an FS5 body would also not be too bad :-): Oversampled 4k, Super35crop mode (ideally accessible via assignable button) and dual native ISO.

  4. Thanks for the article! Its funny to hear you talking about monster rigs after seeing your video about rigging the fx9 to turn it into a 9 kg monster. A7s iii doesnt need a vmount you can just use a few of the small batteries and maybe the audio adapter. Not even a cage.

    1. Where do I make the FX9 a 9kg monster? The FX9 is 2Kg, XDCA is 800g, even with a Shogun 7 and V-Mount battery you’re under 5Kg, and it will sit beautifully on your shoulder or work off a tripod. And sure you can use an A7S III bare bones, just like the FX9 can be. But once you try to do anything other than eye level work where you can use the OLED VF you will struggle to see what you are shooting with enough detail to know whether it’s in focus or not or spot small details that might spoil the shot with the tiny LCD. Put heavier lenses on it and it quickly becomes front heavy and challenging to hold out in front of you for extended periods, unless you are happy to hold it a waist height and shoot up everyones noses all the time. This has always been a problem with DSLR’s and the A7S III does nothing new to address this.

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