PetaPixel

Sony’s New A7s is a 4K-Capable Mirrorless Full-Frame with Insane ISO Sensitivity

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The presentation is over — although you can still watch the replay for yourself here — and as rumored, Sony has added one more full-frame mirrorless camera to its Alpha 7 arsenal: The A7s.

We asked you when rumors first broke a couple of days ago what you thought the S stood for, and after a cursory look it doesn’t seem anybody got it right. According to Sony, S stands for Sensitivity, as in ISO Sensitivity. And it’s that, along with the camera’s ability to shoot 4K (sort of, more on that in a sec), that Sony is focusing on with the A7s.

First, the video stuff — after all, the camera was announced at NAB. The A7s can shoot 4K video, yes… but there is a big “but” attached to the end of that statement. The camera can’t shoot 4K internally. It can record 4K only when you have an external recorder plugged in via HDMI.

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More exciting for photographers is the fact that the camera uses a sensor that only boasts 12.2 megapixels — half the pixels of the A7 and one-third of the pixels of the A7r. It mights seem strange that we’re lauding a camera for its LACK of megapixels, but it’s a gutsy move by Sony that pays dividends in the low-light department.

As mentioned above, the ‘S’ stands for Sensitivity, and that’s a direct effect of the larger pixels. The A7s blows the competition out of the water with a stills ISO range that is expandable to 50-409,600, and the larger pixels are also supposed to provide better dynamic range, gradation and color fidelity.

We’ll reserve judgement until we actually get to see some samples or try the camera for ourselves, but the D4s might have some competition at the top of its DxO Mark ISO totem pole.

Here’s a closer look at the A7s:

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Thus far, Sony is keeping pricing a secret, but expect the A7s to start shipping sometime this summer. For more info, head over to Sony’s press room by clicking here, or watch the presentation here.


 
  • Henry Wang

    If they’re smart they’ll make it cheaper than the GH4.

  • markz

    with 4 times the sensor area?

    and 4 stops (allegedly) advantage?

    they would be insane to sell it cheaper than the GH4!

    of course if sony what to go all “Don’t you know I’m loco?” on us and under price it I’ll be first aboard their crazy train

  • Tyler McCool

    that rig.. lol

  • http://www.sin3rgy-creative.com/ David Liang

    This is where Sony made a good move and faultered at the same time. Had they a useful and varied full-frame e-mount lens selection, they could afford to sell the camera very competitively and make the money have with lens sales. As it stands now they’re giving up lens sales and are likely in tough position of finding the right sale price, but hopefully have a slew of accessories that augement the camera for video. IE external LCDs, XLR input/output connections, battery pack, etc.

  • JoeNoName

    well the A7 is at the same pricepoint as GH4, perhaps at the same price aswell

  • markz

    I’d still be all over it like a rash….
    … just being having a work place argument with a couple of co workers, one with a A7 and another with an A7r both of them “furious” that sony has released a new version already and furious that it so lame with only 12 MP… sigh… most of my best images were made with a 3 and 6 mp Canon D30 and D60 (back in the day when going over 400 iso meant your images were as noisy as a thrash metal music festival)

    give me 12 mp and true working ISO’s of 12800 and I’ll give you my money

  • Ex14

    I don;t know why everyone is so excited over this. Couldn’t they have added this capability their A7 and A7R? With the exception of a (as oif right now) claimed Better DR and autofocus, sony’s recent blitz of products with seemingly short life cycles is a tad worrying to me.Call me paranoid, but for long are they gonna support their product? And if no, will this trend push other camera makers to follow suit as well.

    Maybe I’m a bit biased to Fuji (being a user) but I really come to expect companies to support existing products more than just throwing a whole boatload of cameras and later on not having enough resource or due to sheer marketing factors to not be able to update firmware or add new features unto existing products.

  • Vlad Dusil

    This. The RX1 is well overdue for a firmware update, yet we haven’t seen anything since it’s release. Instead we’ll soon be served a successor, effectively having to fork over thousands for the improvements we should’ve gotten for our existing cameras.

  • Cynical Bloke

    Based on how long the nex7 lived the A7 range will be around for a while.

  • Joe Kundlak

    I do wonder what is so “insane” about the ISO sensitivity? Common, I would assume it is the same (or a close) sensor to what D4S has and that ISO sensitivity is there already… A quite logical move by Sony on the other hand.

  • Ex14

    I’m not really talking about just how long the A7 range would last, I am talking about possible firmware updates? I’m not clear on the specifics but what exactly is the A7 or A7R lacking which forbids them on having 4k video too? Couldn’t it be added via a firmware upgrade? Having the camera not replaced is fine and dandy, but fi you don’t update them to have better algorithm and perhaps even new features then the products are as good as dead. Once again maybe I may have been spoiled by Fuji, and by no means is it wrong. I just can’t help but feel it’s a huge loss for consumers if it does become common place.

  • http://www.SocialMore.com roxics

    The reason has to do with the sensor. 12MP was chosen not because it’s awesome for low light, which it is, but because it works really well for 4K video.

    The sensor is a 3:2 ratio that needs to be cropped to 16:9 for video, so you lose some megapixels there. What you want to do is come as close as possible to 8.3MP which is the 4k UHD 16:9 standard. Not to be confused with the 4K DCI standard which is wider at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio(4096 pixels). This allows you to do a full sensor read out without line skipping (which causes moire) and IQ loss.

    To downsample from a 24 or 36MP sensor with similar results would require a lot of processing power and in turn, heat issues from said processor. Remember that it also has to further downsample to HD, which it does without line skipping as well.

    So first and foremost this was built to be a 4K video camera to compete against the likes of the GH4, 1DC and whatever Canon and Nikon might be releasing later on. Which is why it was announced at NAB.

    The fact that is does great low light and DR as a result of the larger photosites and sensor size is really just a great bonus for both stills and video shooters. But they already have two a7 cameras for still shooters, this isn’t mean to replace those. This is a video camera first and foremost.

  • 321312312312321

    nice camera but im not interested.. i do no videos.
    and for landscape you want details in your images.
    so other cameras are better.
    and what professionale will use this?
    there are better alternatives and money doens´t really matter in such circles.
    if you have use for 4k the client will pay for it.

  • bolly

    The bad thing is that you are paying for videa caps you’re unlikely ever
    to use. The good thing is, that because of these our camera’s are
    developed for mass markets and remain affordable for us at mass-market
    prices. Just skip the buzz :-)

  • Ex14

    thanks for the insight about the sensor thing.

    if it was really not possible, then this would have made a little more sense.

    tho the whole this is a videofirst camera confounds me. i mean they have done emount video cameras before (NEX FCS700)
    so why not stick with that form factor? why build it in an A7 body? but i digress

    once again thanks for the insight on the sensor. it might be the reasoning i needed to hear from sony

  • http://www.SocialMore.com roxics

    Hard question about the form factor thing. The market has definitely shifted since 2008. Before the 5D markII we were building DIY spinning ground glass adapters for our video cameras so we could use still lenses and get shallow DOF. Monsterous ridiculous looking things. Then video came to the DSLR and it revolutionized the market. Not only did it have a large sensor but also shot stills. Two cameras in one. Since then, We’ve gotten used to shooting video with DSLRs and manufacturers have responded.

    I think what the manufacturers saw was a way to save money by building one camera for both stills and video. Especially with the dwindling point and shoot profits being lost to smart phones.

    But there were losses on both sides. Stills people complain about added cost and complexity having video tacked on to their cameras. But video people lost more. We came from cameras that had flip out screens, mic and headphone jacks, XLR audio jacks, EVFs, stepless apertures, zebra patterns, and so on. All of which were standard on even the cheapest video cameras. We’re just now starting to get most of that back with these newer mirrorless cameras. I mean the first several years we didn’t even have headphone jacks. Canon and Nikon are still building lower end DSLRs without headphone jacks. Who puts a mic jack on a video camera without a headphone jack?!!!

    But if your on a budget and you can buy a $800 Rebel that shoots better quality cinematic looking low light video to SD cards than a $3500 tape based camcorder, plus has interchangable lenses and doubles as a high quality stills camera, which would you pick?
    Those other losses we’ve had to deal with are hard and we’ve had to fight tooth and nail for the smallest things like manual audio controls, headphones jacks, clean HDMI video output, etc.

    The problem today is that if we’re offered a camera with the same specs in a videocam body, the cost immediately jumps exponentially. Because it’s a whole new design, more materials and they can no longer market it to stills people too. Which is why a lot of us are still sticking to DSLR style bodies and why Sony announced stuff like the a7s. They know we’ll buy it and they know some stills guys will as well, just for the low light.

    So I apologize on behalf of us video folks for the added frustration to your cameras. But look at it this way, we both want amazing image quality with great low light and dynamic range. So now you have two groups pushing for that in the same cameras. We may help you get some awesome features like global shutter and new old school mechanical focus lenses. Feel free to use some our cine lenses which will blow you away with their IQ, long throw focus rings for incredible accuracy, parafocal capability and fixed front elements. Many of which are available now in F and EF mounts.

  • Sky

    “Had they a useful and varied full-frame e-mount lens selection” – That never happened.

  • Sky

    “Canon and Nikon are still building lower end DSLRs without headphone
    jacks. Who puts a mic jack on a video camera without a headphone
    jack?!!!”
    – People who use video in their cameras to record holidays or their family events can’t be bothered by building entire rigs or running around in a proper headphones (which tend to be more expensive than some of the lenses). If they want a bit better sound quality or record outdoors they buy external mic, but that’s pretty much as far as it goes. I don’t know what’s your problem with that. It’s like complaining that people want autofocus in video (eg. Sony SLTs were bashed for that all over the internet – “you don’t need AF in video” – totally ridiculous when you realize people aren’t running around with 5kg rig supporting proper focus controls).

  • Paul-Simon

    The D4S is extremely high end though, and in an entirely different price class.

  • Zhuk

    What’s new is that it’s usable for video. Most DSLRs do not read out all pixels during video recording (they do line skipping), which effectively reduces sensitivity and increases noise. This is advertised as the first full frame camera that does read out all pixels, so the amazing DR and sensitivity is all usable for video. The reason why it’s only 12 MP is precisely to make this possible.

  • markz

    congratulations, you have successfully worked out that this camera is not aimed at your demographic.
    You may now walk away and ignore this camera, all its various discussions, marketing, tests and pricing along with its fanboyz/fangurlz knowing that it offers nothing to you and your skill set except the potential photographic equivalent of the frustration of trying to bang a roofing nail in with a Philips-head screwdriver.

    However for video shooters, night and other low light shooters may just find that this rig tickles their particulars with a nice feather

  • http://www.SocialMore.com roxics

    I’ve used cheap earbuds in a pinch just to make sure I’m not clipping. The point is, what is the cost of a headphone jack when you’re already putting on a mic jack?

    I don’t see a problem with AF for video. I think it’s a great feature to have. We had AF on videocams forever, why not have it on DSLRs as well?

  • Joe Kundlak

    Yup, but we are not talking about classes, we are talking about chip performance, which (if it is the same sensor as in D4s) is there already and is nothing “brand spanking new”.

  • Joe Kundlak

    No argument there! I was just referring to the “insane ISO sensitivity” being “news”.

  • Paul-Simon

    It’s obviously not the same chip, so yes it’s new.
    And ISO of 409K is the highest you can get nowadays, so if you were to call anything “insane”, it would be that.

  • Joe Kundlak

    Yup, obviously it is a tweaked one to the specific purposes. But we are already in technicality territory, so this does not matter much.

  • fsjal

    k, on the other hand maybe you should stop throwing sh*t against comment section here, thxbai

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