Sony Alpha A7S Hands-On Session With Den Lennie

Sony Singapore organized a hands-on session for its new Sony Alpha A7S on Monday, 25 Jun 2014 at Sony Store at 313 Somerset Singapore. I’m so glad to be invited to take part in this event together with many other professional photographers and photography amateurs, and the most important thing is, the host of this hands-on session is the famous Den Lennie!

Sony A7 Series Cameras and 5 FE Lenses
Sony A7 Series Cameras and 5 FE Lenses

It is honour to have Den Lennie as the A7S hands-on session host. Den Lennie is an industry expert who has played as a producer, director, colorist, director of photography and lighting cameraman. He was sharing his valuable insight into the Sony Alpha A7S during the hands-on session.

Den Lennie
Den Lennie

The new Sony Alpha A7S’s “S” represents its high sensitivity image sensor which is the sales point of this new full-frame camera. It is capable to shoot from ISO 50 to an unbelievable ISO 409600, yes, 400K of ISO!

Sony Alpha A7S with FE2470Z
Sony Alpha A7S with FE2470Z

The A7S equipped with a 12 MP image sensor with the new BIONZ X processing chip. It uses the contrast-detection as its only focus system but the focusing speed is pretty fast and accurate with the FE55F18Z and the FE2470Z. The A7S use the same physical body design and menu system as the A7 and A7R, the shutter sounds loud but not as aggressive as its A7/7R brothers. There is a good news for wildlife photographers, the A7S also provide silent shutter mode which uses the electronic shutter instead of the mechanical shutter so that you won’t scare your subject away when you press the shutter.

Sony Alpha A7S with FE2470Z
Sony Alpha A7S with FE2470Z

Sony Alpha A7S is the third full-frame mirrorless camera system and rated as the top camera among the other two brothers, the A7 and the A7R. Sony Alpha A7S has a great focus dynamic range from EV -4 to EV 20 which means it is sensitive enough to shoot the dead dark night scene as it were in the daylight scene.

Sony Alpha A7S Equipped with 4K Recording Accessories
Sony Alpha A7S Equipped with 4K Recording Accessories

Please take a note here, the Sony Alpha A7S  4K video recording can only be done together with the third-party 4K video recorder. The Sony Alpha A7S is capable to do the video recording in the S-Log2 format which provides greater dynamic range and it is a great news for videographers.

Den Lennie
Den Lennie

Den Lennie had done some amazing A7S review videos and the videos are available online as well.

Well, the shots above were taken by my Sony NEX-6 with SEL24F18Z, not the A7S. But don’t be disappointed yet because I was managed to get some time to play with the new A7S in the end of the session and took some test shots for its various ISO. I believe that this is the part that you want to know the most.

ISO Test Shot By A7S With FE2470Z

The Sony Alpha A7S provides 1/3 stop throughout its ISO range, that means I have to shoot 40 shots from ISO 50 – ISO 409600, that’s a lot! I cropped all the shots into 600×400 and compiled them into single image, so remember to download the image to view full resolution comparison!

ISO Comparison 1

The first comparison is the mid range shot as shown below. We will see how well the A7S handles medium-size details (around palm size) at high ISO.

Original Shot for ISO Comparison 1
Original Shot for ISO Comparison 1

I cropped the centre and let’s see the word “Gran Turismo 6” on the top right area in the below comparison.

ISO Comparison 1
ISO Comparison 1

When shot at ISO 25600, the result is still clean and clear, and the word details is maintained at a very good level. Details at the maximum recommended ISO 102400 are still pretty usable with more noise, while bump the ISO into the expended range the shots lost the details significantly and the word “Gran Turismo 6” became hardly recognised from ISO 204800 onward.

ISO Comparison 2

The second ISO comparison (yes, another 40 shots) was taken for a close distance subject as below. Now we are going to see how well the A7S handles the tiny details at high ISO.

Original Shot for ISO Comparison 2
Original Shot for ISO Comparison 2

Second comparison is cropped at the centre right area where the camera and lens attached. Let’s look at the lens’ indicator word “20- 50-” at the top right area in the comparison shots below.

ISO Comparison 2
ISO Comparison 2

The tiny words on the indicator are well-handled by the A7S at ISO 25600. But this time round the tiny details become hardly recognised from ISO 80000 onward, and become total unrecognizable from ISO 204800 onward.

Ok, there is no third ISO comparison here because the extra 40 shots and compilation will give me a nightmare 😉 A short conclusion for the ISO comparison, the Sony A7S is capable to produce a fairly clean and clear result at ISO 25600, and the details that retained at ISO 64000 are still pretty usable. I’ll avoid to bump the ISO beyond the ISO 64000 because the image will start to lost those tiny details significantly from that onward. Nonetheless, I’m impressed by the performance and capability of A7S’ high ISO and Sony had bring a new era of high ISO to the digital camera world!

Impression For the A7S

When I was passed the A7S, it was in the Continuous-Focus mode. The A7S was attached with the FE55F18Z and it keep changing the focus at an insanely fast speed but doing it silently. I guessed that’s the reason why the guy before me only played with it for less than a minute and then passed it to me with an unbelievable face. Once I switched to the Single-Focus mode, the A7S locked on to the target fast and accurately.

The new menu system is welcome to the new series of Alpha E-mount camera. Dedicated aperture, shutter, and ISO wheels provide faster and more efficient control for shooting. I like the new placement for the memory card slot that is located at the backside of the camera (same surface with the ISO wheel) because it is more convenience and easier to access than the old NEX series memory card slot placement that is located at the bottom side and squeezed together with the battery compartment.

** Updated on 28 Jun 2014 **

Thanks for the clarification by the PR agency whom on hand for  Sony Electronics Asia Pacific. The weird RAW file behavior is most likely due to the incompatibility of RAW processing application. Then only compatible RAW processing application is the Image Data Converter by Sony at the current moment.

However, I experienced some weird RAW file behavior on my Macbook Pro. All the RAW files look like covered by a semi-transparent magenta mask (as shown below) in the Darktable and my Macbook Pro cannot recognize and generate any preview for them as usual. I’m not sure is it because of I was using the pre-production A7S or because of the software compatibility issue.

Magenta Mask-Effect of RAW file
Weird RAW File Behavior

Luckily I shot in RAW + JPEG mode so that I have a reference to adjust the RAW right accordingly. Hopefully this issue can be solved by either camera firmware update or the RAW processing application compatibility update.

The Sony A7S will be sold at SGD 2,999 (body only) and available on 26th Jun 2014 in Singapore where the A7R is sold at SGD 2,799 (body only) and the A7 is sold at SGD 1,999 (body only) currently.

Are you impressed by the high ISO performance of the Sony Alpha A7S? Will it be your first full-frame camera or replace your current gear as your primary camera? You’re welcome to share your thoughts and comments here.

That’s all for today, hope you enjoy the reading and like it =)

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