Sony Reveals Insane A7s Low-Light Demo, But How Much Will Night Vision Cost?

With only a 12-megapixel sensor and ISO expandable all the way up to 409,600 for both stills and video, everybody knew that that the Sony A7s was going to be a low-light beast… and yet the performance is still taking us by surprise.

Yesterday a short demo video shot at NAB was shared online to a plethora of “oohs” and “aahs,” and today, the Sony How To YouTube channel released yet another mind-blowing demonstration of the camera’s night-vision capabilities.

Shot using a Sony A-Mount 16-35mm f/2.8 at 1/50th of a second shutter, check out the contrast between ISO 1600 and ISO 409,600:

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 9.26.55 AM

Just like yesterday’s comparison, there is some serious noise there at ISO 409,600. So much that you wouldn’t use this for production work. But it is unbelievably clean considering this is ISO 409,600 coming out of a mirrorless full-frame camera. What started out as the hint of a campfire turns into fully-visible dawn.

The only question left is: how much will Sony charge for this kind of low-light prowess? Because UK retailer Wex Photographic claims Sony UK told them the body-only price will be £2,500, which translates into roughly $4,183 USD… over twice as much as the regular A7 costs WITH the kit lens.

(via sonyalpharumors)

  • Marcin Bauer

    Something is fishy, and I don’t mean the fish in the video.
    If the video was shot at a constant ambient (lack of) light, shouldn’t the campfire light be blown out at 409600 ISO? There are clear edits, and the man is going out of frame so that editing is easier, BUT the flame/smoke shows it’s cut…
    Conspiracy… ? 9/11… ? // joking :)

  • NickE

    Dawn can be awfully convenient…

  • wiedenu

    Could be the S-log and the dynamic range that provides. But yeah, would love to have some more info on the production.

  • Peter Böszörményi

    The fire was well underexposed at 1600.
    I think the trick is that the “normal exposure” is somewhere around 100k-200k ISO. That’s what the human eye would see. They didn’t actually make day out of night but the opposite: night out of day (or dusk at least).
    You’ll always get better results at high ISO with lot of light…
    Also this is S-Log which means low contrast (high dynamic range for post production). Also a reason for lack of blown out highlights.

  • waterengineer

    Let’s see. Take a four year old sensor……create some (or more likely revisit some old) firmware……then charge more than twice what the thing is worth. Nice. I’m in the wrong business.

  • waterengineer

    Agree with your statements + color grading.

  • Edgardo Contreras

    and there isn’t even a trace of light from the fire hitting the guy!

  • Zos Xavius

    I have to disagree. This looks like a very new sensor. A 4 year old sensor wouldn’t be this good nor have the readout capability needed. It looks like they took EXMOR technology and applied it to a sensor with larger pixel sites. I’m no sony fan, but they are doing some impressive things with their sensors.

  • Zos Xavius

    That’s a small fire in a fire pit. The ring is blocking most of the light. Your expectations are unrealistic.

  • Renato Murakami

    Crap, I thought the rumours were at 2500 USDs, not pounds. At 4000 bucks it’s waaay beyond my measly budget.

  • Korios

    Video is much less noisy than a high res photo because it is much more compact. Photos at 12 MP and 100% crop would be ultra noisy. However if you view them at 720p resolution they will look much less noisy, because the noise is hidden due to the shrinking. Even if you view the video at 1080p on a 1080p screen the noise is still 6 times smaller. With 4K footage on a 4K screen the noise would have been more obvious, something Sony would not like to point out.

  • jamesbjenkins

    Are you a time traveler? This sensor is not even one year old on the market (excluding R&D time obviously.)

  • Jeffrey Howarth


  • Matt

    Of course, but still a good step forward in high ISO. Pretty cool.

  • sixchain

    Throw some black and white on it and you can get away with 409600 ISO. Everybody loves that black and white grain.

  • Dano

    I wonder why the clouds do not move?

  • LePereDeJamy

    Dawn time! :)

  • Bill Binns

    Dammit! Why does it have to be Sony? I banned Sony from my life back in the root kit and Memory Stick bad-old days. A big jump in low light performance is one of the few things that would get me to buy a new DSLR right now. I am tempted but I’m going to give Canon a little while longer to get it’s head out of it’s ass and start innovating again.

  • Gatot Jaka Timur

    I know the trick!!! The people and fire moves in slow motion actually, they recorded it from midnight till dawn. Hehehe…. I know what’s behind your sleeve sony!

  • Kyle Clements

    Why Canon?

    Nikon also has a camera out with ISO 400,000 – and it’s even a Sony sensor under the hood. D4s.

    I’d be interested in seeing these two cameras go head to head.

  • Julien

    Ahahah, that would be awesome!!! Sony would make millions selling fake high ISO cameras and real slow-motion fire!!! I want slow-motion fire!!!

  • JM

    Here’s an idea: What if Sony made a 35 f1.4 lens like everyone else does so that its users don’t need 409,600 iso to shoot in the dark? With an f1.4 lens, we could get by with a mere 100,000 ISO. Sorry Sony but there’s more to photography than fancy camera bodies. If you’d paid attention to your lenses, you wouldn’t have lost me to Fuji.

  • Ken Elliott

    Like this one?

    I get that you wanted to change to a different system, but f/1.8 is only 1/2 stop slower than f/1.4. Can’t see why anyone would change systems for that, but I’m sure you had other reasons.

    Sony is a consumer electronics company. The guys designing the sensors and electronics are NOT the guys designing lenses. So stopping sensor development does nothing to speed up lens design. And the value of ISO 400K does allow for a wider range of lens use (like my 500mm f/4 Nikkor) and gives me a quick enough shutter to be able to do things I otherwise couldn’t.

  • Digi•Pixel•Pop

    I was told by the Sony rep at NAB that it would be “around $2500 USD”, there’s more info on my site.

  • TechLegend

    I’m pretty certain that the D4S sensor is built by Renesas, designed by Nikon in a collab. Sony does make the sensors for most of Nikon’s other cameras though… specifically the D800/e and D610. They also make the 50mp CMOS sensor for the new Hassy, PhaseOne, and Pentax MF camera. D4S is an amazing sensor… I think it loses a stop of DR to Sony’s FF sensors though.

  • Peter Böszörményi

    I don’t buy that. If it was pitch black, the making of video wouldn’t be able to record and the actor moves way to confidently for total darkness.

  • Julien

    So I guess you’ve never been by a fire at night witht the full moon… And… If they can film the real thing, what makes you think they can’t film the making of…?

  • Peter Böszörményi

    It was an overcast sky. The fire does not light the subject. And they wrote it on the screen when they used the A7s. So either they did not film it at night or they failed to mention that the making of was also done by the A7s.

  • Julien

    I just watched the making of again and there isn’t even a single shot in the making of that is filmed at the same time the ISO shoot was done. The only shots they show on the beach was the preparation when the sun is slowly going down and we see a guy filming freehand with the A7s. The final shot was done on a tripod so it’s clearly not the shot from the ISO movie done at night.

  • Adriano Martins

    Wow, sorcery!

  • Guy With-camera

    Not worth it …. I’d rather get a 5d mk 3 with magic lantern at this price. The GREEDY bastards at SONy could take a a7s and shove it up their asses. See how it can perform in low light where the sun don’t shine.

  • Gatot Jaka Timur

    sony paid the fire to move slowly. there’s not a thing money cant do.. heheheh

  • td

    well… you can buy sony and get free spyware and root kit lol…