I recently upgraded my camera to the Sony A7S II. And if you are like me, the last thing you want to do is upgrade your camera. Whatever you’re using now has gotten you through so many video gigs and home movie shoots that you just can’t imagine life without it. But you have a problem. Your camera is outdated.
Technology has progressed so much in the digital camera arena that even your clients and family members understand what it means to shoot in 2K or even 4K. When a client asks you to punch into some footage in the edit you don’t want to tell them no. You want to ask, “how much?”
It’s time to upgrade your rig to something better. Even though modern cameras shoot higher resolution images, I can’t say ‘bigger is better’ because most cameras these days are smaller than their predecessors. That’s how my search for a new camera led me to the Sony A7S II. Whether you are a photographer or cinematographer, this is a powerful tool.
Why I Upgraded My Camera To The Sony A7S II (And You Should Too)
Shows like ‘Better Call Saul’ us this camera as an alternative to the Arri Alexa when they need to get a shot in a tight space or need a crash camera. At just under $3000 you can’t get more bang for your buck.
The A7S II is the second generation of Sony’s A7S camera, hence the ‘II’ in the name. The A7S II is a full frame, mirrorless digital camera that allows recording of 4K video without a need for external recorders. It’s ability to shoot full frame images using a flattened color profile, called S LOG, creates beautiful footage that is quite flexible during color correction. This ‘flattened’ color profile preserves the range of your highlights and shadows, giving you more control of the final image.
With the body weighing only 22.1 ounces, this camera is unbelievably small but packs a large punch. It has the ability to shoot in many aspect ratios and frame rates, the exact specs of each change based on resolution.
If you plan to shoot hand held, load your camera onto a drone or gimbal unit, the relative light weight of the camera body gives you many more options at a pro-summer budget than a larger camera such as a RED, Cannon EOS or Sony PXW-FS5.
Shooting in 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) you have the option of the Sony XAVC S compression applied but don’t let this concern you. If you need a camera that shoots RAW you will have a plethora of additional equipment needs like external recorders and many large capacity hard drives. The XVAC codec is efficient and results in beautiful images. There are other codec options but XVAC S results in the best image that the A7S II can produce.
Each recording mode does have different options and limitations, which you can find on many technical websites, so be sure to read through them carefully before deciding if this camera is right for you.
The most remarkable aspect? You can crank your ISO up to 409,600 letting you shoot in what is nearly absolute darkness. Doing this does result in lots of noise and other issues, but it is unbelievable that it is possible at all. The camera performs very well, in my opinion, up to 12,000 ISO, which if you are shooting a Documentary, should be an acceptable amount of grain to get the shoot.
I used to laugh when people told me we would be filming a night scene, but didn’t need lights because it would be a full moon. Now, that’s technically possible.
The Sony A7S II is my choice for a powerful prosumer camera that can be decked out in many ways. I have successfully used this camera in run and gun situations but due to the full frame sensor the focus can be a bit tricky even with the cameras view screen.
In later posts I will get into lenses, cages and add-ons that will make shooting on this camera a dream!
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John Graham is an LA based filmmaker. His feature films ‘Home Sweet Home’, ‘Catching Faith’ and ‘Wish For Christmas’ are available in the USA and world wide. John attended the Savannah College of Art and design, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA in Film and Television. Check out his website or instagram for more.