I was always intrigued by film making but the technical side made it very unattractive. Then Sony released the A7 III. Admittedly, I was initially attracted to it for photography reasons but soon after playing the camera, I started to fall in love with the video side of storytelling.
In this blog post, I am going to share all the things that I have learnt about the Sony a7 III because I am sure that we have some overlapping questions.
Jump to links:
- Does the Sony a7 III shoot video at 4K 60p?
- What file format should I use for filming video on the Sony a7 III
- Can the Sony a7 III film in 4K slow motion?
- What is S&Q mode and is it any good for slow motion video recording?
- What is eye AF and how does it work?
- What is eye AF like on the Sony a7 III?
- Does eye AF work in video mode?
- Sony picture profiles
- My experience with EOSHD Pro Color V4 HDR
- Closing remarks re: Sony a7 III
- Thinking of buying a Sony a7 III but you’re still not quite sure?
Ready to dig in? Let’s get started!
The Sony Alpha 7 III (ILCE-7M3) has a 24 megapixel CMOS sensor. It can film UHD 8-bit 4K resolution (3840×2160) in 30p, 25p and 24p as well as in full HD (1920×1080) in 120p, 100p, 60p, 60i, 50p, 50i, 30p, 25p and 24p. It can film videos in the following file formats: XAVC S, AVCHD 2.0, and MP4. When filming in 4K 30p (available only in NTSC mode), footage is cropped in by about 1.2x. When filming video in 25p and 24p, no cropping of the sensor readout occurs. The Sony a7 III does not offer 4K 60p although at the time of writing, rumors are that the anticipated Sony a7 SIII may have 4K 60p.
I personally like to film in the highest quality possible even though most of my content is viewed at 720p on mobile devices. This means choosing 4K XAVC S 4K at the highest bitrate that my memory cards will let me (100M).
I also film in 30p and take the crop factor hit. I do this because my typical video timeline is set to 24fps and by having 30p footage, I can natively slow down the footage by 80% without taking a hit in quality. Filming in 30p also forces me to film in NTSC (even though I’m in a PAL region).
The answer to this question ultimately depends on what you determine to be slow motion. When I was doing my research, I had no idea how slow motion was achieved in post processing. Now I have a better understanding. I think ..
I should have spent some time watching this video first! It would have removed a lot of my initial confusion.
The short answer is no, the Sony a7 III does not offer 4K 120p/100p. 120p/100p is only available in 8-bit 1080p.
By the way, PAL = 100p while NTSC = 120p (it took me a while to get this).
The beauty of S&Q mode is that you can playback in slow motion. That is, you can film a scene in S&Q mode and show your client immediately how the slow motion looks like. However, there are downsides to S&Q mode.
In the following video, Miguel Quiles explains Sony’s S&Q mode. He is using a Sony a7 RIII in the video but it is essentially the same to the Sony a7 III for S&Q mode.
According to Jason Vong, S&Q mode does not record any audio. Then again, do you really want slowed down audio? I always have a laugh when I listen to slowed down audio. You should try it.
When I need slow motion, I’ll record in XAVC S HD (1080) 60p to get the highest quality from my footage. Since my video timelines are typically 24fps, 60p will allow me to halve the speed of the footage without any quality loss. But to be honest, I rarely film in slow motion as I feel as it is overused as a crux – similar to super shallow depth of field.
Eye AF was one of the biggest reasons why I bought the Sony a7 III. As a wedding photographer who needs to capture a lot of natural interactions between people on a wedding day, eye AF makes my job almost redundant. I simply point the camera in a vague direction and it does all the hard work for me.
I can confirm that eye AF works just as magically at wide apertures (f/1.8 – f/2.8) as it does in the video above (f/6.3).
Based on my personal experiences, using eye AF for the very first time feels weird. As a DSLR photographer for 8+ years, I am used to carefully picking the AF point in-camera and making sure that the subject rarely strays from the AF point.
Using eye AF is like relearning composition – almost like driving in USA versus driving in UK. Same thing but different!
Does eye AF work with adapted Canon/Nikon lenses on the a7 III?
Sadly, no. Eye AF does not carry across into video mode. The Sony a7 III does however track faces, people and moving objects quite well. Here’s some proof:
If you are considering a Sony a7 III as your first Sony mirrorless camera for film making, the picture profiles found on the a7 III should be of particular interest to you.
As a photographer, I didn’t quite understand what picture profiles were. I simply shot in raw and in Lightroom, I would make the necessary adjustments to white balance, contrast, sharpness, individual HSL adjustments, saturation, tone curves etc. Little did I know that when recording video, the flexibility I had with raw files was no longer available.
I was lucky enough to go on a short holiday with the wife in Seoul, South Korea just when I took delivery of my Sony a7 III. Wanting to vlog, I brought my a7 III and FE 24-105mm f/4G OSS. Let’s just say that I won’t be showing any of the videos that I shot in South Korea.
Not wanting to color grade, I followed the advice of many YouTubers to shoot in Cine4. They had convinced me that SLOG was too much work. For a while I followed Henbu’s recommendations (see below video).
For you convenience, I have written out the settings down below.
- Black level: +5
- Gamma: Cine4,
- Black gamma: Range Middle, Level +6
- Knee: Manual (80%, slope +2)
- Color mode: S-Gamut3.Cine
- Saturation: +3
- Color phase: +3
- Color depth: R +1, G -2, B +3, C +3, M +3, Y 0
- Detail: 0
The following two videos were filmed using pretty much the above picture profile cine4 settings.
Looking back, I’m not a big fan of the colors that came out of it. But using those cine4 settings allowed me to think more about the actual filming than worrying about color.
Then I filmed this prewedding in Sydney, Australia.
Ultimately unhappy with how the colors were turning out, I decided to use my wallet and pay for something: EOSHD Pro Color V4 HDR.
I had really low expectations going into this. To be honest, I didn’t get the hype about achieving ‘Canon’ colors.
I was so so wrong.
EOSHD blew my mind.
Canon colors! I LOVE YOU.
As you can see in the above video, I am pretty lazy when it comes to editing color in video. Perhaps lazy is the wrong word. I simply do not have the experience or skill set to manipulate color in video footage compared to the experience I have with manipulating color in raw still images. But using auto white balance (I know right!!?!) with EOSHD Pro Color V4 HDR, I am happy with the results out-of-the-box.
I originally bought two Sony a7 III bodies for photography work. Whilst eye AF continues to blow my mind, I still prefer using my trusty workhorse Nikon D750 for photography and use the Sony a7 III for filming video.
Would I recommend the Sony a7 III?
It is an incredible machine. Not perfect but it is close enough.
It may be just $2,000 but $2,000 is still a whole lot of money! Especially considering that if you’re switching across to Sony across from Nikon or Fujifilm, you’re in a whole world of pain when buying an entire new set of lenses (click here for a full list of Sony E-mount lenses).
These were the reviews that I watched in my research phase that ultimately pushed me across the line to not just purchase one Sony a7 III but two!