Sony’s at­ti­tude to video ap­pears

Camera - - ON TRIAL -

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.

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