Camera - - AWARDS -

The Sony Al­pha 7 suc­cess story con­tin­ues, although the videoori­en­tated ‘S’ has lived a lit­tle in the shadow of its much-lauded ‘R’ sib­ling per­haps be­cause it’s been per­ceived as less of a stills cam­era. While video is cer­tainly the a7S’s strong suite – that’s why the Mark II ver­sion is star­ring here – it’s as a hy­brid cam­era that it’s the most com­plete.

While the ultra-high res­o­lu­tion sen­sors grab all the head­lines, Sony’s 12.4 megapix­els ‘Ex­mor’ full-35mm CMOS con­tin­ues to pro­mote the cause of big­ger pix­els with all the ben­e­fits of their higher sig­nal-to-noise ra­tio, in­clud­ing prop­erly use­able very high ISO set­tings. In the case of the a7S II, the na­tive sen­si­tiv­ity range is equiv­a­lent to ISO 100 to 102,400 and it de­liv­ers ex­cep­tional imag­ing per­for­mance well into that up­per level. Re­mem­ber how good Nikon’s D3 was on 12 MP? Well, the a7S II ben­e­fits from a lot of sub­se­quent de­vel­op­ment in sen­sor de­sign and data pro­cess­ing (es­pe­cially the noise re­duc­tion al­go­rithms) so it’s as close to pixel pu­rity as we can get. Less is cer­tainly more here.

The new mag­ne­sium al­loy bodyshell adds im­proved dura­bil­ity (it’s sealed, but not fully weath­erised) and the Mark II re­vi­sions to the con­trol lay­out pro­mote en­hanced er­gonomic ef­fi­cien­cies. The five-axis sen­sor-shift im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion com­pli­ments the low-light ca­pa­bil­i­ties when shoot­ing hand­held (both for stills and video) and an up­graded aut­o­fo­cus­ing sys­tem – now us­ing 169 con­trast-de­tec­tion measuring points – in­creases the speed and track­ing ac­cu­racy. Low light sen­si­tiv­ity is down to -4.0 EV (at ISO 100).

The first a7S was al­ready a handy video cam­era, but the Mark II ver­sion ben­e­fits from a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in ca­pa­bil­i­ties – 4K video can now be recorded to the mem­ory card with a si­mul­ta­ne­ous clean out­put at the HDMI ter­mi­nal (2K or 4K). UHD 4K video is recorded us­ing the sen­sor’s full pixel read-out (i.e. with no pixel bin­ning) which en­hances im­age qual­ity. There’s the ad­di­tion of new cin­e­matog­ra­phy ‘Pic­ture Pro­files’ called S-Ga­mut3.Cine/S-Log3 and S-Ga­mut3/S-Log3 which de­liver an ex­panded dy­namic range of 14 stops and make for bet­ter colour grad­ing in post-pro­duc­tion. For Full HD record­ing there’s a 100p frame speed for slow-mo se­quences (main­tain­ing a 100 Mbps bit rate), and the Sony’s cre­ative po­ten­tial more than matches its tech­ni­cal prow­ess.

Throw in the XGA OLED viewfinder, 500,000 cy­cles shut­ter (with a new damp­en­ing mech­a­nism), WiFi with NFC, the op­tion for cap­tur­ing 14-bit un­com­pressed RAW files and tiltad­justable mon­i­tor screen, and the a7S II is very highly-con­cen­trated lit­tle pack­age. How­ever, its out­stand­ing imag­ing per­for­mance is what wins the day… this and its over­all bril­liance as a hy­brid stills/ video cam­era.

DIG­I­TAL VIDEO CAM­ERA – THE FI­NAL­IST Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Pana­sonic HX-A1 Sony FDR-X1000V 4K Sony Al­pha a7S II

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