Sony A7s Becomes DxO Mark’s New Low-Light King, Falls Short in Other Categories


The DxO Mark verdict is finally in for the much-lauded Sony A7s, and as you might expect, it steals the low-light crown from the Nikon Df handily. The problem is, it seems to fall short of its main competition (the other two A7 cameras) in every other category.

If you didn’t see the low-light score coming, then you’ve been hiding under a boulder… not a rock, a boulder. Many tests have come out, the most relevant of which we’ve tried to share with you here as the camera has made its way into photographers’ and videographers’ hands, and all of them impressed.

DxO’s score confirms this low-light supremacy. In terms of raw numbers, the A7s scored a 3702 in the Low-Light ISO category, putting it a full 423 points ahead of the former low-light king, the Nikon Df.


But that’s where the good news stops. Not that the rest is bad news necessarily, just disappointing given the excitement this camera has generated for the “pixel size is more important than everything else” crowd.

Compare it to the A7 and A7r and the A7s looks like a bit of a one-trick pony… two if you add an external recorder. Those tricks are low-light capability, where it is the undisputed champ, and 4K video capability, which is limited by the need for the aforementioned recorder.

That out-of-this-world low-light score came at the cost of a full stop of dynamic range and some color depth performance. Of course, DxO makes sure to mention that the A7s it outperforms both the A7 and A7r in every category when used above 3200 ISO, but it had to sacrifice base performance to get there.


What does this tell you about the A7s as a photographer’s camera? Well, you can form your own opinions on that, but the general gist is that this is a camera for people who value low-light performance above all other metrics.

You give up resolution overall, and dynamic range and color depth suffer at base ISO (not that they’re bad by any means, just lower than the other Sony options), but what you lose at base you gain when you have to shoot hand-held in low-light.

Combine that with the (sort of) 4K capability and the portability of the mirrorless full-frame system, and you could potentially have a new favorite for concert photographers. Click here to read the full DxO Mark review, and then let us know what you think of the results in the comments down below.

(via The Phoblographer)

  • Pickle

    But Trey Ratcliff said this is the best camera on the market (allegedly) and was really smug about how he changed over from Nikon because this camera is so great (allegedly). I guess if you get to spend money traveling all the time and taking overcooked HDR photographs, it’s a good camera, but the poor AF, slow responding EVF, and lack of native lenses kind of makes the DSLRs stay the king.

  • OtterMatt

    Don’t forget the possibility of being paid to say nice things about it. That might make it worth your time.

  • Graham Marley

    I mean I thought it was as good as DMF! Luminous Landscape said so in sufficiently vague terms!

  • Andrew Kandel

    I think his main point was that he wanted to go lighter, which obviously makes sense for a travel photographer. There are adapters for Nikon lenses and Zeiss does make some very nice lenses for the Sony system. It’s not for me with what I shoot, but I don’t begrudge somebody else finding it a good fit for them.

  • DanThePhotoMan

    Trey Ratcliff switched from Nikon to Sony way before the A7s camera came out. He said DSLRs are dead. He implied people still shooting DSLRs are foolish. In actuality, such a blanket statement is foolish. DSLRs are a vital tool for most working pros and some advanced amateurs. It seems to me mirrorless is popular for travel photography, what Trey shoots. Mirrorless may catch-up to DSLRs someday in areas like AF speed and accuracy, but there are plenty of people out there who need DSLRs today.

  • Pickle

    Yeah the way he was saying it gave the impression that anybody still using a DSLR is stupid and he’s the smart one for doing this. Except with his photography, it doesn’t really matter all that much.

  • Scott

    I can live with the compromise and would love additional low light capability. Put it in a Nikon body first though :D

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    it is called : MARKETING

  • Walter

    I dunno, I’ve been looking at the samples, and I’m very impressed. I may be a perfect candidate for this, the low light capability of this camera is definitely nothing to be sneezed at, and the daytime stuff looks at the very least comparable to its SLR cousins. Slow AF may be the only issue that could cause trouble.

  • jon

    AF is apparently blisteringly quick (compared to the A7R and A7, anyway)

  • Pickle

    So why aren’t any photographers at the World Cup or the NBA finals using it? Are they just stupid and like to carry more weight?

  • jon

    I said it was fast compared to the A7 and A7R. And apparently it can almost hang with the big boys (so I’ve read).

    The A7S isn’t being used at the World Cup or the NBA finals because isn’t a professional sports camera, nor does it have a good lineup of lenses. No fast native zooms, only 5fps, I’m sure af tracking is slower, no dual card slot, flimsy construction. The list goes on as to why it isn’t the best sports camera on the market. Are you serious?

    Why the veiled hostility?

  • Mirek Krejci

    The price for a camera that falls short at base? General disappointment it isn’t the perfect machine we all dreamed of… Not wanting to be unloyal to the dslr?

  • Urban B

    Interesting, but everyone’s kinda missing the point. The competitor to the a7s isn’t the a7 or a7r, but the Panasonic GH4. If photographers can get some utility out of it, that’s great. But, sorry, this isn’t for you guys. It’s a video camera.

  • David Vaughn

    I think it would be a great travel camera, but I’m not so sure about the quiet part. That shutter, *kachunk*

  • jon

    The A7s has a full-electronic shutter option. Completely silent when you’re shooting things not affected by rolling shutter.

  • bogorad

    Pro-sports photography is about the last resort of DSLRs. Can’t think of any other.

  • bob cooley

    How about any type of photography that you need professional grade equipment, beyond capturing single frames.

    Mirrorless cameras are great – I love my Fuji X100s and X-T1, but there are many areas where they don’t stack up to DSLRs.
    To name a few:
    – Anything that requires burst flash (fashion, press conferences, many areas of journalism, etc.)

    – Anything that requires a body that gets banged around – Pro DSLRs are tanks, my D4 will bounce away from impacts and situations that I’d never subject my Fuji to – it wouldn’t hold up.

    – Use with external flash setups – Optical viewfinders are much better for use with studio lights.

    – basically anything where an optical viewfinder is needed.

    I love my mirrorless, but they are not a reliable replacement for my pro bodies on assignments where I have to depend on getting the shot in many difficult situations quickly.

  • Wade Marks

    Here’s the problem with the video implementation: to realize the headlining 4K video, you need an external unit. This not only adds cost but of course, adds to the bulk of what you must carry, kind of defeating the point of a smaller mirrorless camera for some.

    I realize that to some video pro’s the extra unit won’t be a deal killer, and may be no big deal. But to others, this is in fact a deal breaker.

    Whether pro or amateur, there are many situations where you only want to carry a relatively small camera, and that’s it. In this case the GH4 wins every time.

  • Wade Marks

    Exactly…mirrorless cameras are getting better and better, but they are still no match for quality dslr’s.

  • Noel Kerns

    For my money, what he does stretches the boundaries of what can still be faithfully considered photography, anyway.

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  • bogorad

    Oh please! Let’s compare apples to apples. D4s is *ten times* more expensive than a6000. Here’s a great comparison of the two:

    His take? D4s is (somewhat) better in focusing and tracking. Is it *ten times* better? No way!

    Once you start comparing *similarly priced* DSLRs and mirrorless you’ve got an even better picture.

    Now to your points:

    – burst flash: what about 11.5 fps (with proper flash via multi-interface shoe), radio-synchronized (Phottix Odin), with TTL, HSS, Hypersync

    – yep, but these situations tend to be pro-sports related, mostly

    – see above (Odin, TTL, HSS, Hypersync)

    – where do you *really need* (vs prefer) optical viewfinder, except for pro-sports?

  • Sven Dressler

    I like the EVF from the A7 :)
    on the other hand what hinders you on having more than one Camera?

    I decided to switch from DSLR(SLT) to Mirror-less and I did not regret the decision.

    I’m using a lot of old Minolta Lenses with LA-EA4 Adapter and the combination was great in India.

    If I could spend the money i would buy the A7s too for special situations (e.g. events) where flashes are destroying the atmosphere.

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  • Urban B

    True. A lot of people seem to love the GH4. It’s a great camera.

    One must always make a trade-off when choosing a camera. With regards to 4K, the a7s is a good choice for someone hedging their bets. 4K has significant hurdles to overcome in delivery, and may never truly take off. If it does, it will be a couple years at least, during which time recorders will shrink in size and cost. (People seem to forget that the Shogun is a full featured monitor as well as recorder.)

    Speaking of trade-offs, I might rather carry an external recorder than extra lights. If the low-light performance and DR on the a7s are as advertised, that would be tough to pass up. One aspect of carrying less is the ability to use available light.

    The sensor sizes also create different creative options. In closer spaces, a larger sensor might be a necessity. (It is for me.) Speed boosters, in addition to reintroducing some moire (for some reason), doesn’t quite cut it.

    So I wouldn’t say the GH4 will win every time. It all depends on what you need. Right now, I can’t imagine a project that would require 4K delivery in which you wouldn’t want to greatly support your sensor, which means a robust rig. Ultimately, we’ll have to wait until the a7s gets into the wild, and see what other options start to crop up later this year. Exciting stuff!

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  • Pickle

    You can’t say it’s blistering fast and then contradict yourself by comparing it to its horribly slow cousins. It’s like me saying I’m blistering fast compared to my 80 year old father. It doesn’t make sense.

  • jon

    Yes I can.

  • Heni

    I love the A7 series, but damn why do they have 3 bodies, and only 4? lenses?

  • Cinekpol

    If anything – he is foolish for choosing mirrorless instead of proper large sensor compact. It’s much less hassle, and with monster like RX1 you can achieve better results in what he does thanks to smaller size and a body that looks like a compact, not some obscure hybrid between DSLR and Mirrorless (fake pentaprism, etc.).

  • Cinekpol

    I switched from EVF back to OVF and can tell you this: After 3 years of shooting with best EVFs on a market from Sony (both: SLTs and NEXes) – I’m most glad to be back in OVF family. It feels so much better and more natural to use OVF. Makes you more in contact with a subject and… it just feels fresh. Sure, EVF got some advantages, but there are moments where you want to see stuff with your own eyes, even though you’re still taking photos, instead of using a fingetnail-sized TV. No matter how much EVFs will improve – they’ll still lag behind OVF and won’t be as natural to your eyes as a proper pentaprism OVF is.

  • Cinekpol

    It’s Sony E-mount at it’s finest. APS-C nexes got the same problem – nearly as many bodies as lenses. But let’s face it: People who buy into mirrorless don’t care about choice of native lenses or accessories, they either stay with kit (according to Sigma – that’s a vast majority of mirrorless customers, more than in DSLRs) or toy with adapters (another large group).

  • Akiva

    Everyone here is forgetting that for video, this is still probably the best camera out there.

    It’s the only full frame interchangeable lens camera (for under 10k) that actually has balanced audio inputs (they work through its hot shoe adapter). Audio is vital for any serious filmmaker and that has been where most DSLR type formats have fell short until now.

    The only other viable option for video that has interchangeable lenses and balanced audio is the GH4, and to get balanced audio out of it, you need the YAGH which is extremely bulky, expensive, and needs to be plugged into the wall for power! That last point is one of the main reasons I’m not even considering to buy the GH4.

    Another thing about the A7s (and the GH4) compared to high MP count cameras is that when recording video, they don’t downsample. To me, it’s not so much about big pixels, it’s about not downsampling. Line-skipping has also always been a problem with DSLR type format cameras for video until now.

    Yes, if you take stills only, I would say get the A7 or A7r (or any other camera) because of their better performance and higher MP count (unless you like to shoot in low light), but for video, the A7s is still the best in many ways. And I didn’t even mention S-Log2…

  • bob cooley

    Right- its more expensive (but not all Pro DSLR bodies are) – but you get a hellova lot more reliability for your money.

    I don’t need to compare similarly priced tools, I buy the correct tools for the job.

    I never made any mention of focus tracking- Pro DSLRs are a little better, but not significantly.

    Situations where my cameras have gotten bounced around do include sports, but only in the minority – Spot news where I have to move fast, Architecture when hanging or harnessed to buildings -assignments of all kinds when in very cold or hot temperatures.

    Burst flash doesn’t work with the setup you describe on mirrorless. The hot-shoes on mirrorless don’t support burst flash – they don’t send a signal every time the shutter trips.

    Optical is better in almost every situation – even with the fastest EVF, there is a bit of lag – shooting spot news, fashion, quickly moving scenes of any sort the optical will give you more decisive control.

    Again, I love my Fujis, and am a big fan of mirrorless, but they just don’t hold their own on assignments where I need the durability, speed and reliability of a pro DSLR.

    That’s also the reason they aren’t sold as professional cameras.

    What does the future hold? who knows – but in todays market, Pro DSLRs are the tools made for heavy duty assignments. Mirrorless are great for light assignments and personal work.

    I’ve got 30 years of experience in the profession, from your links I’m not seeing that you do this for a living, so I’m not sure you have a clear outlook – I don’t have to rely on comparisons from websites – I shoot and own both systems (multiple bodies and many lenses in both).

  • Jonathan D. Lopez

    I would definitely like to see more custom buttons on future models. Sony is making excellent cameras, but they aren’t as functional as Nikon’s and Canon’s cameras in terms of using them everyday, all day.

  • Moronerator

    “The problem is, it seems to fall short of its main competition (the other two A7 cameras) in every other category.”……..

    Puleez… We really do not need another DxO disciple spewing flawed ‘empirical’ mathematics.

    Seriously, we all know that it is easier having someone tell us what is going on than deduce reality for ourselves, but for goodness sake use some logic and rationalization.

    Color palette (bit depth) does not change by downsampling unless colors are being added in the process, which would no longer be a measure of what the sensor is producing but what the print engine or software is doing. If a sensor can only reproduce 22bit color at the pixel level then it can only produce 22bit color – period – image size/sampling does not matter. If tonal accuracy is only 95% at the pixel level then the sensor is only capable of 95% tonal accuracy – period – image size/sampling does not matter.

    While the level of perceived noise does indeed improve when downsampling an image, no other aspect of IQ improves as measured by DxO. Therefore contrary to what DxO ‘believes’ to be true, one cannot apply the same mathematical formula to color, tone, or DR. If you look at what the sensor is doing at the sensor level (pixel level) the A7S literally trounces every digital slr currently available.