10 days with the A7s. I LOVE this camera!

So I have had my A7s for 10 days now. I took it on holiday with me shooting both stills and video, getting a feel for the camera in a wide range of situations from brilliant sunshine to shooting under candlelight.

It has been an absolute delight using it, with one small caveat: No ND filters built in and boy, does this camera need ND filters! I see that there are now some lens adapters with ND faders built in from Fotodiox and HolyManta. I hope to test these soon, but these ND  adapters are dumb adapters so only for fully manual lenses. So a set of front of lens ND’s or a good ND fader is essential to get the best from the A7s.

Lens wise I don’t have the greatest range of full frame lenses. I have my Samyang 24, 35 and 85mm full frame primes which work really well with the camera and the Sony 28-70mm f3.5-f5.6 kit lens and some old f1.4 nikkors. Actually the kit lens has really surprised me, for what it is, it does give a nice image. Almost all my lenses are Canon EF mount so I have been using an adapter. The one I have is the Commlite Full frame E to EF smart adapter, which has worked perfectly (it supports a wider range of lenses than my early model metabones adapter). For some longer focal lengths I’ve been playing with the new Tamron 16-300mm APS-C lens. One side note is that if you use an APS-C lens with a 1.4x teleconverter, in most cases the image circle will then fill the full frame sensor. I will be testing this further and posting some sample images soon. This might be handy for 4K video when you really need to use the full sensor.

Anyway, back to the camera. I had forgotten how nice full frame can be to work with. For photo’s the shallow DoF is a delight. For video you have much greater control over your DoF. As the camera is 3200 ISO you can shoot in the dark with ease and get very natural looking images without having to add extra light. SLog2 is great for capturing a huge dynamic range video. Today and tomorrow I am pushing the Slog2 though some torture and exposure tests to find the exposure sweet spot for Slog2 and 8 bit recordings. I’m also developing some LUT’s to use with the camera and I’ll have a full workflow guide to slog2 on the A7s in the next couple of weeks.

I really love that this little camera can shoot video that is of really remarkably good quality. Most people don’t realise your shooting video with it. It’s really quite scary just how good the video is, it’s starts you thinking… do I need an F5 when the video from the A7s is so good? But then when I started to set up the A7s for my Slog2 torture tests and added a monitor, the battery to power the monitor, rods, matte box, external recorder etc it soon turned into a frankenstien monster of a camera rig. The F5 is so much nicer to use in this respect. For casual shooting, covert filming or as a grab camera the A7s is pretty incredible and I will use it for a lot of things, but it’s not a replacement for my F5/R5.

One very nice feature of the A7s is the silent shutter stills mode. In this mode the camera makes use of the sensors electronic shutter rather that the cameras mechanical curtain shutter. This is great for time-lapse as you won’t wear out the mechanical shutter. The only down side is that when I use a DSLR for time-lapse I often make use of the large frame size from a 24MP or more sensor to re-frame or pan and scan the shot in post. The A7s is only 12.2MP or 4,240 x 2,832 pixels so very little room for re-framing in a 4K production, although not too bad for an HD programme. I wish the vanilla A7 had this feature, it would make it a great time-lapse camera. One application I’m very excited about is using the A7s to shoot the northern lights in both time-lapse and real time next year during my Northern Lights expeditions and workshops.

Keep an eye out for my Slog2 guide in the next week or so where I’ll document my findings on how to get the very best from the A7s. It’s an amazing little camera. Can’t wait for the 4K recording options for the camera to become a reality. Maybe we will find out more at IBC.


24 thoughts on “10 days with the A7s. I LOVE this camera!”

  1. Alister, thanks love your take, what nd filters would you recommend?
    what we really need is a variable electronic nd like the red motion mount mated with the commlite, eliminate need for ND and rolling shutter
    dreaming aside i am looking at nd and want to know your take for both straight nd, and variable, does this camera need ir nd? since we are using strong levels?

    1. It will depend on your budget and lens range. An ND fader with a set of step up/down rings would be very useful, or a Matte Box with a set of ND’s. IR ND may be a good idea for stronger ND levels, but the A7s has good IR filtering built in.

  2. “Today and tomorrow I am pushing the Slog2 though some torture and exposure tests to find the exposure sweet spot for Slog2 and 8 bit recordings. I’m also developing some LUT’s to use with the camera and I’ll have a full workflow guide to slog2 on the A7s in the next couple of weeks.”

    That is great as this camera is on my short list.

  3. Hello Allister,

    I saw you have Samyang 24, 35 and 85mm full frame primes in Canon EF mount, like me, except the 35.
    I have lot of some light issues : flare, leak…in natural or artificial light.
    An another person has these problems :
    Do you have theses problems ?
    Do you have an idea ? Lens, adapter, A7S ?

    1. Probably a reflection somewhere, most likely the adapter. But a simple lens hood would also fix this by preventing the off axis light from entering the lens in the first place. I find it amazing how may people don’t bother with lens hoods or matte boxes.

  4. For those of us looking at this or a GH4 as a second or third camera, how does the picture look in camera?
    I appreciate the effort you’re putting in to the S-Log posts, but some of us working in the fast paced world of news, docos and corporates, etc don’t always have the time or opportunity to fix things in post.
    If the image has to be right first time, are you planning on any info as to the best settings, etc.
    Looking at the reviews, there seem to be pros and cons to both cameras (as always!), but the price difference on the cameras and lenses is also a factor and the rolling shutter looks worse on the A7s.

    1. You have lots of gamma and paint options with the A7s, so you can create a lot of different picture styles in camera. When I get time I will write about these too. For me it’s the ability to use full frame lenses without any optical conversion that makes all the difference.

  5. The shallow depth of field will be much better on the A7s, but I suppose focusing quickly and accurately will be more difficult on the run or with limited time, etc.
    The choice is weighing up the pros and cons of both cameras, lenses, workflows, etc.
    So far, all the reviews I’ve read and watched haven’t really shown a clear winner.
    GH4 wins on price of the camera and lenses, more suitable for run and gun maybe, 4k internal recording. A7s has the amazing low light capability and great shallow depth of field and my other camera is a Sony with XAVC, etc.

    1. I agree that there is no clear winner when you look at the A7s and GH4. They are actually quite different cameras and both have strengths and weaknesses. Even though I do love my A7s I am considering a GH4. I think the A7s is a beautiful film like camera. Getting shallow DoF is easy in low light, but a challenge in daylight as you need a ton of ND if you want to use Slog2 at 3200 ISO. Although it is really nice to be able to use f4 to get shallow DoF with the full frame sensor rather than f2.8 on S35 sensor. The flip side is that because it is so sensitive you will often find that you are at f16 in daylight, so deep DoF for run and gun is there if you want it.
      The built in 4K of the GH4 is very useful if you need a compact camera on a 4K shoot but I don’t think it has the dynamic range of the A7s. I do have a Sony AX100 which has a 1″ sensor and nice servo zoom, so that does give me one easy to use run and gun 4K camera, but while generally the images are very good, it doesn’t have the dynamic range of the A7s.

      Going forwards much will depend on external recording options for the A7s. Hopefully there will be more options than just the Shogun (not that the Shogun looks bad in any way), I’m sure there will, I can’t imagine the Shogun being the only 4K HDMI recorder for long.

  6. I agree with what you say, but having both isn’t really realistic for me.
    On a slightly different tack, does the new X70 offer a real world compromise that’s worth considering in place of the Gh4 or the A7s??
    So many cameras these days, makes choosing one difficult, especially as you don’t want to make the wrong choice!

    1. The best thing about the X70/AX100 is the 12x servo zoom that holds focus as you zoom. Add in the clear image zoom function and you have a perfectly useable 18x zoom in 4k or 24x zoom in HD. The downside is lower dynamic range (10 stops). It really depends on what you need. Decent par-focal zooms for GH4 or A7s may be an issue for some applications.

  7. I always use the lens hood to shoot.
    I did not have this problem with my FS100 …. May be the size of sensor.
    BUT the problem is solved ….
    I paint flat black inside the adapter ring 🙂

  8. Hey Alister! Quick question for you. I have the A7s, the same Commlite EF adapter that you have, and the Tamron 24-70mm VC lens, and after adding black non-reflective flocking material to the adapter the picture looks great! The problem I’m having is that I can’t seem to find a way to see an on-screen display of the focal distance. I am used to my 5DmkII with Magic Lantern allowing this feature, but on the A7s I know the feature exists (someone posted a screenshot on dvxuser), but I think that maybe the Commlite adapter doesn’t send this information from the lens to the camera. Unfortunately I’m not 100% certain of this so before I shell out the $400+ for the metabones adapter (which apparently has it’s own problems), I am hoping maybe you can give me your thoughts on this. It would be extremely helpful to get a readout of how far the focal point of the lens is at a given time without having to look at the lens itself.

  9. Hi Alister , I really enjoy your website , lots of great stuff to read about !!!
    Could you post your A7s settings ? Noise reduction on/off etc.
    One more question for you , what kind of files XAVC S are ? mov , mp4 or mts ?

  10. Thanks, Alister, for all of the useful information you provide! (…can’t wait to try the a7s sLog2 LUT’s you’ve bestowed upon us.)
    I’ve just purchased two of the Commlite FF lens adapters, and they work really well for my EF Canon lenses. But I’ve run into an anomaly where my ‘IS’ lenses (which are supposed to work on this adapter) show as not working. (The ‘hand’ icon on the back screen shows that stabilization is “off,” even though I have the switch set to “on” on the lens settings. Have you run into this, and is the display correct? I think that the lens ‘might’ be stabilizing, but it is hard to be sure. Could it be working, but the display is indicating that it is not? I’ve tried it with EF 24-105mm IS, 70-200mm IS II, 100mm Macro IS f2.8 II – ALL seem to show that stabilization (hand icon) is “OFF” on the a7s rear display.
    Thanks again!

    1. The camera might not think the IS is on, even when it is, as the Canon lenses have an IS switch while Sony lenses do not. So with a Sony lens it is the camera body that activates the IS, but on a Canon lens the switch activates IS. With some lenses IS only actually works full time when in the dedicated video mode or when the shutter button is depressed half way.

  11. That’s new and good information to consider – I’ll see if a half-press works, or if it is working in Video Mode. That’s likely the “trick,” since there’s a difference in the two systems’ utilization of stabilizing lenses.
    Thanks so much for your insight!!

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