Sony a7R III Tested – Shooting a Mini Documentary

December 29th, 2017

Slowly but surly we are approaching the end of the year, and just before saying goodbye to 2017 I wanted to clear my desk and publish my impression and footage taken with the Sony a7R III.  The camera is currently shipping and during my last visit to Japan I had a chance to test it.

Sony a7R III – Extract from the above video

Unfortunately, the camera I was given by Sony was a local one – meaning, the menu structure was all in Japanese and there was no easy or fast way of changing it to English. So after receiving it I made sure that I’m adjusting some basic settings like resolution (4K UHD), picture profile (S-Log 2), frame rate, (24p) and such correctly. However, because of the limited understanding of the menu, I wouldn’t name my article a full review but rather ask our respected audience to look at my observations and footage as me just sharing some first impressions.

Alongside of having the Sony a7R III camera, I also asked for the new Sony 24-105mm f/4 lens as I wanted to see how well (or not) those are working together. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this combination is very easy to use and although it is an f/4 lens, together with a (very) lowlight sensitive a7R III, the results were impressive.

Sony a7R III – Extract from the above video

Overall camera improvements and impressions:

  • The new, larger a9-like camera body size is easier to handle and the inclusion of a new higher capacity battery is very welcome.
  • The second SD card slot is now active in video mode too and allows the recording of a backup simultaneously on card B while shooting on card A. That means that card A can be set to record 4K with proxies, and the same for card B at the same time. Also, it now has a relay feature for movie recording, meaning that the recording goes on to the other card, if one of the cards becomes full. However, this camera still has the typical 29:59 recording limit per clip.
  • The new camera now incorporates 2 USB input/outputs. One of them is for fast data transfer (USB 3.1) and the other can serve to charge/operate the camera from a computer or external battery pack
  • Both full frame and super-35 modes produces nice looking videos with the edge to the later. I like this combination and the ability to switch between both according to your shooting needs
  •  S-LOG3 is now supported but I wouldn’t recommend using this setting as this is an 8 bit camera
  • HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) picture profile was added for producing instant “out of the box” HDR (High Dynamic Range) content
  •  The LCD is now a touch screen, allowing ‘tap to focus’ as well as the ability to drag your thumb across the panel while using the EVF to pinpoint specific locations for focus
  • Improved autofocus function. I can report from first hand that this is working very well in most cases

While having the camera for a relatively short time, it always felt as being a very responsive flexible working tool. No matter what I filmed with it and at what time of the day/night, the camera always produced nice looking video images.

What needs improvement:

What I would like to see being improved is the stabilisation system. Shooting handheld à la tripod mode pointing at a subject functioned well but when moving (walking) and following a subject, there is still some improvement to be made. It is also worth mentioning that’s like its predecessor, the Sony a7R III does not add any new frame rates so if you are in the market for a camera that can shoot in 4K and 50/60 frames per second, then this one is isn’t the one for you. Also, the rolling shutter doesn’t seem to be improved at all, unfortunately. I also noticed still some moiré on the full frame shooting mode which is the one I used.

Sony a7R III

Conclusion:

Sony did quite a bit to improve the visual quality of their 4K video in the A7R III from its predecessor, and in my opinion it is now the best hybrid camera they ever produced. I’ve seen professional photographers showing some amazing photos that were captured with it and I can certainly report from first hand that the camera performs very well in different filming conditions. (And for those who are concerned about the overheating issue, well, it did not occur while I was shooting but this might be meaningless as we are all working in a different space and under different temperatures).

So, if this camera is so nice to work with, is there any obstacle in getting it? Well, the answer might be its’ biggest “enemy”,  Sony’s own non (yet) existing camera, namely, the a7S III. If I was currently in the market for a new Sony full frame mirrorless camera that can shoot video, I would certainly have in mind Sonys’ past tradition of labeling the a7S family of cameras as “video orientated” and “low light killer”, so while the a7R III is an excellent all around performer, Sony will have to offer something extra in order to capture the heart of filmmakers with the future a7S III. How valuable this extra feature is yet to be seen, but the knowledge that Sony is running 2 very similar yet different camera lines might be enough for many to delay their purchasing decision and wait for the next best thing from the same company.

Camera settings for the above video: Full Frame, 4K (UHD), 24p, Picture Profile: S-Log 2. Edited on Adobe Premiere latest edition. Own cinema5D LUT used for grading.

The video above is Featuring the work of Takashi Miura-san. Please visit his page by clicking here.

A huge thank you for Irwin Wong for helping in producing the above video. You can find more about his amazing photography work by clicking here. (And thank you for Mrs. Wong for being my model).

Music supplied by Art-List Themes: To Edinburgh by The Highlands & Blossom by Blossom Learning.

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 Juan Solorzano
Juan Solorzano
Member
January 4th, 2018

Hello Jhonnie,
I would appreciate a comment on the 24-105 lens. What do you think of it?
Did you use Auto or manual focus while shooting this mini doc? A particular take caught my eye (at 4:10) when focus goes from the artist face to his hands in the hair of the girl… was it a manual pull?
thanks

 Juan Solorzano
Juan Solorzano
Member
January 8th, 2018
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

Thanks! that just made my mind about it.

 Van Daven
Van Daven
Member
January 5th, 2018
Reply to  Juan Solorzano

Hello Juan, I am using the Sony 24-105 every day. I first thought my Canon 24-105 via Metabones might do the same job, but the Sony is the better design and probably the most flawless FF 24-105 lens on the market imho.
In addition to that, it offers working / usable Autofocus in those situations which don’t allow you to use manual focus.

 Juan Solorzano
Juan Solorzano
Member
January 8th, 2018
Reply to  Van Daven

Thanks Van Daven. I am new to the Sony Alphas and would like to avoid adapters. I am a videojournalist with extensive Canon lenses (24-105 included) but the uncertainty of when an adapter could or will fail in an scenario where you can´t miss shots, makes me consider a slow but certain transition to Sony.

 Funky Punky Monkey Junk
Funky Punky Monkey Junk
Member
January 3rd, 2018

This doesn’t add up:

1. S-LOG3 is now supported but I wouldn’t recommend using this setting as this is an 8 bit camera

2. HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) picture profile was added for producing instant “out of the box” HDR (High Dynamic Range) content

No way is an 8-bit pipeline going to support HDR. What a crock.

Jamie LeJeune
Jamie LeJeune
Member
January 3rd, 2018

Yep. You’re totally right about that. Remember back when Panasonic P2 cams were shooting 960 x 540 internally upscaled to 1920 x 1080 and Panasonic said it was an HD image? Same thing here. Wait 5 years and these consumer gadgets might have a chance to actually catch up with the marketing ; )

 Van Daven
Van Daven
Member
January 3rd, 2018
Reply to  Jamie LeJeune

Well, in case of the A7RM3 that’s not the case, I shot some aliasing tests vs. FS5 and C300MkII yesterday and the 4K S35 crop mode shows less aliasing than both of them while no longer featuring the huge rolling shutter from the other Sony Alphas. In regards to color we’re not in HDV days anymore, I wouldn’t underestimate the power of interpolation.

Jamie LeJeune
Jamie LeJeune
Member
January 3rd, 2018
Reply to  Van Daven

You’ve missed my point. I wasn’t commenting on the resolution or pixel count of the a7rIII. I was making an analogy to say that often the consumer implementation of a new tech (HD in the case of the dear old P2 cams, and HDR+WCG in the case of the the current a7rIII) lags years behind the marketing claiming that some early device actually fully supports it. 8bit 4:2:0 just isn’t enough information to encode a wide color gamut log signal meant for HDR display, and that’s just for display much less for acquisition as we’re talking here with a7rIII. The REC2100 spec that defines HLG explicitly requires a minimum of 10bit color: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rec._2100
Sony marketing is just flat out lying when they say a7rIII can actually do HLG.

Member
January 3rd, 2018
Reply to  Jamie LeJeune

As far as I know they are not stating anywhere this is a broadcast HLG. This is what they say ” a new HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma)35 picture profile for instant HDR workflow. Recorded movies played back on an HDR (HLG) compatible TV need no colour grading to appear true-to-life, with no blocked shadows or blown highlights.”

So come on now, please actually understand what they actually state if you feel the need to knock the camera.

Jamie LeJeune
Jamie LeJeune
Member
January 3rd, 2018
Reply to  Philip Bloom

HLG by definition is 10 bit minimum. a7rIII is 8 bit. I’m not knocking the camera nor wishing it was 10bit. There are plenty of other cameras that meet the spec. I’m just being clear about what the a7rIII is and what it isn’t. Sony should be up front in their marketing that it’s an emulation of an HLG signal rather than a real HLG signal. That’s all I’m saying.

 Van Daven
Van Daven
Member
January 3rd, 2018
Reply to  Jamie LeJeune

Well, I don’t know how much camera you think you can get for that little money. All that I can tell you is that after properly downsampling S35 4K > HD the results I get in Cine1|Pro are indistinguishable from 10 bit HD Sony FS5 images on a properly adjusted true 10 bit studio monitor. It ain’t no C300 mk. II or FS5 feature-wise but it’s the best B-Cam in the Sony stable at this point.

Member
January 2nd, 2018

Nicely done Johnnie

I still don’t get people who complain about the Sony image. It’s beautiful and can look like whatever you want with colour grading.

Ray Bahas
Guest
January 2nd, 2018

I donno what the reason behind the Sony lack of “life” in its color science… too video-ish, no subtlety, mechanically clean… While the DR seems wide, one goes from blacks to whites with sketchy definition in between. Not convincing at all.

Member
December 31st, 2017

Very well done!! And what a lens!! It does not seems a F4 lens!! The shallow dof seems from 24-70 2.8!! But same ugly (imho) skin tones from Sony… And I have used lots of Sony cameras, I’m not a fanboy of anything, my c300 resolve colors way better than my fs5, a7s etc…

 Van Daven
Van Daven
Member
December 31st, 2017

Dear Johnnie, thank you very much for taking the time to develop another mini-doc to showcase an aspect of this new Sony cam. It is in fact the first of the Sony Alphas that I ever purchased (took a look at the previous model and didn’t like it that much), and I don’t regret it yet. Even though there’s some aliasing going on in FF mode, I put it to the test and it seems to resolve even a bit better than my FS5 … at least not worse. S35 crop mode in UHD is nothing like you’ve ever seen from the Alphas, especially in terms of rolling shutter performance. At last a small-footprint interchangeable lens S35 / FF camera that I can just drop into my backpack. Audio is also not a problem with the handy XLR-K2M.

Are we to expect another in-depth tech test like you guys did for the previous models or is that a thing of the past nowadays?

PS: I was shooting in Vienna in October for a documentary production and – to my surprise – we were filming at the same “Heurigen”-location with the same “Dudel”-lady you filmed for the BBC. After the shot I had a chance to talk to the lady – “You know where I know you from?” – “Cinema5D” :D

 Dennis Murphy
Dennis Murphy
Member
December 30th, 2017

I did some side by side tests with the A7Rii Vs A7Riii with noise, moire and rolling shutter in both full frame a S35 modes, also 4k Vs 1080:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_8itEJAQAA&t=229s

Frankie Coto
Guest
December 30th, 2017

Who puts a lens on a table without a back cap!

Daniel Powell
Guest
December 30th, 2017
Reply to  Frankie Coto

The PA/AC.

cinema5D
Guest
December 30th, 2017
Reply to  Frankie Coto

That photo was taken in an event where people could test the camera and lens. As both camera and lens changed hands every few min, there was very little sense for the organizers to ask the people to even use the caps.

Member
January 2nd, 2018
Reply to  Frankie Coto

Me

Gene Nemetz
Guest
December 30th, 2017

Can’t find fault with this image. It has all the specs, the DR, the color. Just wish Sony had panache.

Jamie LeJeune
Jamie LeJeune
Member
January 3rd, 2018
Reply to  Gene Nemetz

Skin tones seem the usual lackluster Sony 8bit mess. That’s no knock on Johnnie, he did a lovely job with the video. Just that the camera is what it is. Thanks for continuing to test them. With luck someday one of these little ones will put out real color.

Member
January 3rd, 2018
Reply to  Jamie LeJeune

Colour is great from this camera. If you don’t get good results that is down to you.

 Erkki Juurus
Erkki Juurus
Member
December 29th, 2017

Wakarimasen. :(

My command of “Nippon-ga” (OSLT) is limited to a few words and phrases, so it was a shame there were no subtitles in “Eigo” or even auf Deutsch. It would have been nice to be able to follow what he was talking about, because the story seemed interesting. Nevermind the camera. ;)

 Erkki Juurus
Erkki Juurus
Member
December 29th, 2017
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

Aa, soo desu ka? For some unknown reason I didn’t notice the CC button until now.
Domo Arigato Godzaimashita, Johnnie-san. :)

Member
December 29th, 2017

Rolling shutter has been improved dramatically. In 4K S35 is as fast as GH5. In FHD it is as fast as the A9 is with the electronic shutter in stills.
http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?303559-Measuring-rolling-shutter-put-a-number-on-this-issue!

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