Mak­ing Movies

ProPhoto - - ON TRIAL -

While the A9 records beau­ti­ful qual­ity 4K video, it ac­tu­ally isn’t as videog­ra­phy­ori­en­tated as the A7R III, which has a lot of the ex­tra func­tions de­manded by pro­fes­sional film-mak­ers. For starters, there’s the op­tion of record­ing 4K video full frame with no pixel-bin­ning, but there’s also a ‘Su­per 35’ for­mat which records at 5K res­o­lu­tion and then down­sam­ples to 4K, which fur­ther en­hances the im­age qual­ity. The ‘Su­per 35’ for­mat in­tro­duces a fo­cal length mag­ni­fi­ca­tion fac­tor of 1.5x (i.e. the same as ‘APS-C’), but the ex­tra qual­ity will make this a small price to pay for some users. Bet­ter still, switch­ing be­tween the for­mats is now quick and easy.

The A7R III records 4K video in the Ul­tra HD res­o­lu­tion of 3840x2160 pix­els (Ul­tra HD) and at 25 fps or 24 fps with two qual­ity set­tings which rep­re­sent bit rates of 100 or 60 Mbps. Full HD clips can be recorded at 100 fps (PAL) for smoother slow-mo­tion ef­fects – as it’s up to five times over­speed – 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 record 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. S-Log 2 and S-Log 3 pro­files are now both sup­ported to make the most of the ex­tended dy­namic range, but as the pro­cess­ing is still 8-bit (and not 10-bit), Sony’s S-Gamut colour can still end up look­ing a bit strange (es­pe­cially skin tones). Far more use­ful is the new Hy­brid Gamma Log (HGL) pro­file based on the new BT.2020 colour space, which is a new 4K HDR TV stan­dard. Con­se­quently, the HLG pro­file en­ables a much eas­ier work­flow for out­put to HDR dis­plays which, of course, is more and more the case these days. Cu­ri­ously, Sony is of­fer­ing four HLG pro­files on the A7R III and, at this stage, it’s not clear what the dif­fer­ences are. For straight out-of-the-cam­era colour and con­trast vari­a­tions, there are ten video-cen­tric ‘Picture Pro­files’, while the re­fined ‘Cre­ative Style’ pre­sets are also avail­able.

As with the A9, the A7R 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 si­mul­ta­ne­ous record­ing of video clips to both (but at all the same set­tings, so it’s for mak­ing a back-up rather than any­thing else). There’s a ded­i­cated video start/stop button on the back panel, but the shut­ter re­lease can also be set to this func­tion. There’s also time-cod­ing, ze­bra pat­terns, gamma dis­play as­sist and a fo­cus peak­ing dis­play.

Stereo mi­cro­phones are built-in, with ad­justable lev­els and sup­ple­mented by 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 such as an ex­ter­nal mi­cro­phone or video light. An XLR adap­tor mod­ule is also avail­able and pro­vides two balanced mic in­puts.

Video func­tion­al­ity in­cludes all the PASM ex­po­sure con­trol modes, the ‘Picture Ef­fects’ and con­tin­u­ous aut­o­fo­cus­ing with track­ing, which is where the lim­ited touchscreen func­tions are most ef­fec­tive, en­abling quick and, more im­por­tantly quiet, point se­lec­tion with smoother pull fo­cus­ing. Again, the AF per­for­mance is out­stand­ing, es­pe­cially the re­li­able track­ing of fast-mov­ing sub­jects when shoot­ing FHD footage. The sen­si­tiv­ity range for video is ISO 100 to 32,000 and the cam­era’s high ISO per­for­mance is much im­proved over the A7R II with great-look­ing footage even at ISO 12,800 (and with full frame 4K as well as the ‘Su­per 35’ for­mat).

While there will in­evitably be a Mark III up­date of the more videoori­en­tated A7S at some point (and with 10-bit colour to match Pana­sonic’s GH5/ GH5S mod­els), the A7R III is a very ca­pa­ble video cam­era with all the ben­e­fits of the mir­ror­less con­fig­u­ra­tion com­bined with a 42.4 MP full-35mm sen­sor, su­perb aut­o­fo­cus­ing and low light per­for­mances, ef­fec­tive im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion, bet­ter in-cam­era colour and longer bat­tery life. What’s not to like?

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