SONY ALPHA A7S II
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