Shooting with the Sony Alpha 7s - First impressions
In early February, Sony asked if we could put some time aside in mid-March to shoot a demo reel for a new camera they were creating.
I can now reveal that this was the Alpha 7s. It's a full frame 35mm hand held mirror-less camera with a 12MP full read out, no line skipping sensor.
This camera has been optimised for video shooting and is very impressive.
The low light capability is staggering with maximum ISO set at 409,600...
We've been using it very comfortably at 12,600 ISO and the images are clean and have great resolution.
Not only does the camera record at 1920x1080 50mb/s XAVCs on to SDXC cards but you can take uncompressed 4K out via micro HDMI into an external 4K recorder.
The biggest plus as far as I'm concerned is the implementation of S-Log2 as an option when recording. This enables you to take advantage of a wide dynamic range and grade up in post.
We made 2 films, the first a 1080p film we shot in Scotland in a small town called Arbroath where they smoke fish in a traditional way. We then travelled to Kochi in southern Japan to shoot a 4k film featuring the cherry Blossom that had just come into flower.
Here's the 1080p launch film we created using the Alpha 7s:
I wanted to put the camera into a variety of lighting conditions that would push the sensor. Working with Drew Gardner who did a lot of the operating for me, we filmed most of the Arbroath Smokie film at ISO 1600 in S-Log2.
The location I chose would give us a wide variety of real world shooting challenges:
- Confined space in a tiny fishing boat
- High contrast challenging lighting environments in the smoke houses
- Wide dynamic range tests on the beach smoking fish in a whisky barrel as the sun is setting
- Challenging low light environments
- An opportunity to do some aerial shots using a drone and taking advantage of the small form factor
We made a short BTS that explains a bit more about what we did and how.
It does 4K too...
We flew to Japan last week for 5 days to shoot the 4k film. The sensor reads out fully at 4k and via micro HDMI you can record 8 bit uncompressed to a 4k recorder. We used the Blackmagic Design Ultra studio Pro that records Ultra HD. Unfortunately this is only AC powered and so we had to confine our shooting locations to being able to plug into a generator or mains.
This was avery early preproduction camera and the 8 but 4.2.2 HDMI2.0 could only be recorded to this recorder at that time.
Atomos today announced a very slick 7" portable recorder that will record 4K in a very compact solution. Had this been available then I would have used that for sure.
Watch the film in 4K
I think this is going to be a very exciting camera...
I will add here that already there is a barrage of moaning on the 8 bit vs 10 bit argument. Please put that to one side for a moment, put down your mouse and look at the images.
I had no concerns whatsoever on location, nor did we have any issue in post or colour grading.
Yesterday I saw this film projected and guess what no issue at all .
For me its always only about how good the image looks.
Post Production notes
The Arboath film was cut in Adobe Premier and graded in DaVinci Resolve 10 - we transcoded the XAVCs files to ProRes HQ and worked in ProRes throughout.
The 4k film was cut in FCP X and graded in Pablo. Only small amounts of correction and matching were applied in the grade.
Extreme Low Light tests
I managed to get a hold of the camera here in Las Vegas again. I wanted to do a test of extreme low light . I used a Zeiss ZF2 25mm lens set to f2 and with no illumination in the room other than the window light and a tiny streak of hallway light.
What we experienced was quite staggering. This scene is almost no light.
What do you think?
Here's another low light test I did on the beach in Scotland
What do you think?