Sony’s attitude to video appears
to be to give all its mirrorless cameras what amounts to pro-level capabilities and then let pricing sort out who buys what model. After all, a lot of what drives a still camera’s video functionality is firmware or software related and, up to a point, doesn’t have a big impact on the bottom line. It makes a lot of sense, although of course, Sony has both the experience and expertise to make this work.
Thus the A7 III follows the A7R III and A9 in having a feature set for video that good enough for professional applications and more than enough for the enthusiastlevel film-maker. This starts with the recording of 4K video using the full width of the sensor with no pixel binning so the 24 fps capture is actually at 6K and the 25 fps at 5K, both subsequently downsampled which gives significantly more detailing and definition. The latter also involves a 1.2x focal length increase (due to the crop), but this won’t seriously compromise wide-angle capabilities and may actually be handy when using a longer lens. There’s also a ‘Super 35’ format which is very similar to an ‘APS-C’ crop which again records at the 5K resolution, but gives a focal length magnification factor of 1.5x.
The 4K footage is recorded in the UHD resolutions of 3840x2160 pixels, and there are two quality settings which represent bit rates of 100 or 60 Mbps.
Full HD clips can be recorded at 100 fps (PAL standard) for smoother slow-motion effects as well as at 50, 25 or 24 fps. Both the PAL and NTSC standard frame rates are available and, via the ‘S&Q’ mode (Slow & Quick Motion) a range of frame rates from 100 fps down to 1.0 fps can selected along with the record rate (i.e. 24, 25 or 50 fps) to create either slow or quick motion clips. As usual, Sony prioritises the high-bit-rate XAVC S format with MPEG-4/H.264 AVC compression, but AVCHD is available for Full HD recording. Both S-Log 2 and S-Log 3 profiles are supported to make the most of the sensor’s extended dynamic range. As on the A7R III, the Hybrid Gamma Log (HGL) is also available and this is based on the new BT.2020 colour space which is a new 4K HDR TV standard.
The HLG profile is designed to enable an “instant” workflow for output to compatible HDR displays. Again, Sony is offering four HLG profiles (HLG and HLG1-3). For straight out-ofthe-camera colour and contrast variations, there are ten videocentric ‘Picture Profiles’ while the ‘Creative Style’ presets are also available (but probably of more limited use).
The A7 III records 4K video both to the memory card with 8-bit 4:2:0 colour and also to the HDMI output with 4:2:2 8-bit colour at 24 or 25 fps. A ‘clean’ 2K output is also available at 24 or 50 fps with 8-bit YCbCr 4:2:2 colour. The dual card slots allow for the simultaneous recording of video clips to both for making a back-up. There’s also time-coding, zebra patterns (with selectable levels), a gamma display assist and a focus peaking display in a choice of colours and intensities.
On the audio side, stereo microphones are built-in with adjustable levels and a wind-cut filter. The camera has both a stereo audio input and an output. These are standard 3.5 mm minijack connectors, but the ‘Multi Interface Shoe’ supports various dedicated Sony accessories including an XLR adaptor module which provides two balanced mic inputs.
Video functionality extends to all the PASM exposure control modes, the ‘Picture Effects’ and continuous autofocusing with subject tracking. This is where the touchscreen capabilities are at their most useful and the AF performance is again very impressive, but sometimes not quite as faultless as when shooting stills. The highest ISO available with video is 102,400, but here the low-light performance is definitely as good as when shooting stills, with anything recorded at up to ISO 12,800 still exhibiting excellent colour and contrast.
While there’s no 4K/50p recording or the higher-res Cinema 4K, the A7 III still pans out as a hard-to-resist combination of size, performance and pricing. And, just as we concluded with its photographic capabilities, it’s also a better balanced package overall as a video camera than either the A7R III or the A9… or any D-SLR you care to mention.