Thursday, September 3, 2015

A look into the night with the Sony A7s (Part 1)

Recently I was able to make a huge investment for myself as a filmmaker. I introduced myself to a new camera, the A7s. I have had my eye on this Sony product for quite sometime now. I have been blown away by it's dynamic range and high ISO capabilities displayed online and now I finally get a chance to use this in a real world setting.

(A still from the A7s, Sigma Art 35mm 1.4)

So where to start? The Sony A7s has so many favorable traits its hard distinguish a starting point. I'll start with my three favorite features and move on throughout each blog post, addressing individual features as we move along. For myself there were a few things that I found desirable about the camera that swayed me to switch from Canon to Sony. First off, variable frame rates. I previously shot on the Canon T3i as it was my starter camera and boy did it get me through some times. However, the highest frame rate you can go is 60fps at 1280x720. This is universal through most Canon DSLRs.
 (Tokina 11-16mm 2.8)

The 5DmkIII, which previously ruled the DSLR world, couldn't compete. The A7s can also be boosted to 120 fps with the downgrade to 1280x720. It can't compete with the Phantom or RED, but for a Full-Frame DSLR, this variability will get the job done. The video posted below is shot completely in 60fps.  All footage is played back in realtime until brought into post to be altered. 

While the variable frame rates are so much fun to play with, thats not all there is to this beast. The ISO is off the charts. Most of the footage above, besides what was indoors, was filmed at upwards of 30,000 ISO. This was my first day with the camera and I really was enjoying this party trick. Grain in the image began to increase as I went up, however it is quite clean around 20,000. Some 50,000 iso footage can even be salvageable. Once you increase upwards of this threshold you will need to use plug-ins like Neat Video to decrease grain levels.

 (Sigma Art 35mm 1.4)

Many filmmakers have highlighted in reviews this outstanding feature, and I hope to learn how to take advantage of this feature and really get some outstanding footage. Once difference I noticed is that the Video ISO is much cleaner at much higher ISOs than the photos. This is due to the sensor only having 12.2mp, thus the pictures suffer loss of quality in order for the video to prevail. Although the resolution is not quite up to par with Cameras like the 5D or even the A7s older brothers the A7 and A7r, the pictures produced still look very nice when paired with the right glass.

While these two capabilities are useful and help with more advanced shooting, you can never forget the little things. The live recording punch in feature is so handy and is something I've been looking forward to for quite some time. Paranoia strikes at the strangest times, especially when conducting interviews. The everlasting battle of not being able to tell if you have something in your eye or if your shot is soft. Being able to punch in and check focus is an amazing feature especially when it comes to doc work, not only in interview settings but out in the field too. The back tilt able LCD screen paired with an amazing EVF makes this camera very diverse. 

(Sigma Art 35mm 1.4)

Using the EVF paired with the punch in focus feature will be great when recording in the field and you need that extra assurance that the subject of your shot, whether that be an animal, mountain top, you name it, is in focus. There are multiple custom keys on this camera that you can arrange which ever is most comfortable for you. I prefer to have my C1 button (located on the top right corner diagonal from the shutter release) to be my short cut to this handy feature, but to each their own. 

I'm very excited to start using this new investment for personal projects, thesis films, and even try my hand at time-lapses. It feels weird making the next step of your career goal and being faced with new and unique situations. While the learning curve in this industry is always changing, this factor is what drives me to be the best I can be. There will be plenty more reviews to come in regards to the time-lapse capabilities, picture profiles, and much more. Until next time. 

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