Read our full Sony Alpha A7S review.
Update on May 16, 2014: Sony announced that the A7S will be available in July 2014, with a list price of $2,500 (body only).
Sony wowed photographers last year with its compact full-frame A7 and A7R mirrorless cameras, and now it’s doing it again, this time with videographers in mind. At the NAB Show in Las Vegas, Sony is launching the new A7S, which can capture video up to 4K (QFHD 3840 x 2160 pixels ) and has an expanded ISO range from 50 to 409,600. While the camera may look just like its siblings, the A7S is all about video production.
The 12.2-megapixel A7S is “the world’s first camera to utilize the entire width of a full-frame image sensor in 4K video acquisition, and does this without cropping or line skipping as it can read and process data from every one of the sensor’s pixels,” Sony says. “This allows 4K video shooters to utilize all of the artistic and creative benefits provided by the unique sensor.”
Like the A7 and A7R, the A7S uses a 35mm Exmor CMOS sensor paired with the new Bionz X image processor. This particular 12.2-megapixel sensor has “extraordinary sensitivity that allows the A7S camera to collect dramatically more light than traditional cameras and to produce beautifully detailed, low-noise images in even the darkest environments,” Sony says. The Bionz X’s “on-sensor technology also broadens the range of tonal gradation in bright environments and minimizes noise in dark scenes, allowing the camera to deliver impressive results in these extreme conditions where other cameras (and image sensors) typically struggle.”
The A7S supports 4K video output to third-party recorders, using the XAVC S recording format (the camera also records to AVCHD and MP4 codecs). Besides 4K, the A7S will also handle Full HD at 60p, 60i, 30p, and 24p frame rates, saving them onto a memory card. Users can switch from full-frame to APS-C crop mode, which allows for 120p recording at 720p and slo-mo playback. There are also other pro features like support for XLR microphones and video/audio controls.
In short, Sony has created a potent video-making machine out of its compact full-frame camera, giving videographers a small 35mm alternative to larger DSLRs like Nikon’s upcoming D4S or Canon’s popular 5D Mark III, with a 4K upper-hand. It also gives Panasonic’s new 4K-capable Lumix GH4 some competition (plus, the GH4 uses a smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor). Considering that the A7S is being announced at NAB – a pro video trade show – don’t expect to find this at a Best Buy, but at a pro camera shop.
(This article was originally published on April 6, 2014)