The Sony A7S II was launched back in September 2015 and rumours are circulating of an impending update. In fact, there was even a user guide for the Sony A7S III listed on Amazon in Germany with a launch date (for the book) of 2nd July.
It’s hard to call when we can expect to see the A7S III in the flesh, and when review samples will become available. I have a hunch it will be around September either ready for or at Photokina, the World’s biggest photographic trade show. The Sony A7 III is now on sale and flying, and Sony will be keen to not muddy the water and give people any cause for confusion about which model to buy. I think we can expect to see the A7 III as the focus for another couple of months or so before the A7S III comes along, but you never quite know.
With this in mind, we’ve given some thought to what we’d like to see with the Sony A7S III.
The A7S line was originally billed as the low light and video model in the Sony A7 series and it’s proved extremely popular with videographers.
While Canon may be dragging its heel with 4K video, some manufacturers are starting to think beyond it and turning their attention to 6K recording. We’d like Sony to make that step and give the A7S III a 24Mp CMOS chip that’s 6K enabled.
The Sony A7S II has maximum video resolution of 3840 x 2160, if the Mark III isn’t 6K-enabled, we’d like it to at least be capable of shooting Cinema 4K (4096 x 2160) – we think that’s a pretty safe bet as Sony will be keen to match, if not beat, Panasonic.
We’re also anticipating that Sony will use its stacked CMOS sensor technology to maximise the size of the photoreceptors (aka pixels) and boost image quality, especially in low light conditions.
One aspect of the Panasonic GH5 that has really impressed professional videographers is the presence of a 10-bit codec. This extends the range of colour available making gradations smoother and allowing greater scope for grading.
The Sony A7S II is only capable of 8-bit colour so the step-up to 10-bit would be appreciated.
Faster Readout and Processing
Sony has proved it knows a thing or two about fast image processing with the Sony A9. This isn’t just achieved by the main processing engine, there’s also memory on the imaging chip itself to help with file output.
Any enhanced processor and on-chip memory will be essential to achieving the higher resolution and bit rates.
Faster readout Will also help improve focusing speed and reduce rolling shutter (aka jello) effect that distorts moving objects.
One of the gripes we’ve had about the second generation of Sony’s A7-series cameras is the positioning of the video record button.
It’s almost impossible to press it without introducing some wobble at the start or end of your footage when you’re holding the camera in your hands. Sony corrected this with the A9, A7R III and A7 III so we’re really hoping that they’ll do the same for the A7S III.
Something that I’ve fed-back to Sony a few times is that I’d like two function menus, one for video and another for stills.
Sony affords a high level of customisation to the A7S II, but anyone who uses the camera for stills and video will find they have to make a few compromises. Having two Function menus would make life easier.
Sony’s menu system is also notoriously long and complex. The A9’s menu is better than the A7-series but there’s still room for improvement with better, more logical segregation of features.
Naturally, we’d also like to see the mini-joystick that was introduced with the Sony A9 as it really speeds-up setting AF point when the camera is held to your eye. It’s made it on to the A7R III, so we think it’s in the bag.
Lots of people were expecting Sony to announce the A7S III at the BVE or NAB trade shows in early 2018, but they’ve been and gone. The longer Sony takes to introduce it, the more likely I think it is that some fundamental changes are being made.
Perhaps this could include a vari-angle screen instead of the tilting unit that’s on the A7S II? This would simplify vlogging and making solo presentations to the camera. You could just flip-out the screen to the side and rely on the Face Detection (or Eye AF) to keep the focus on your face while you present the video.
In the past, Sony has argued that a vari-angle screen is unnecessary because serious videographers, the target audience for the A7S-series, will use an external monitor. While there may be many occasions when they want to do that with the A7S III, there are lots of occasions when people want to be able to downsize more. It’s also much quicker and easier to set-up.
The main mirrorless competition for the Sony A7S III, namely the Panasonic GH5 and GH5S, both have vari-angle screens, and one of the big criticisms levelled at the Canon 5D Mark IV by videographers is its fixed screen.
Given its low-light credentials, you might expect the A7S II to have a fast, sensitive autofocus (AF) system, but its 169-point contrast detection system is pretty poor in anything other than ideal light.
You don’t often need very fast focusing during recording with video, but you do want it to be decisive. A more sensitive phase detection system would be a fabulous addition to the A7S III’s feature set.
I might be getting a bit fanciful here, but it would be fantastic if it were possible to set two AF points and specify a time and speed for the transition in focus.
This might be achieved via the menu or perhaps using a dedicated smartphone app and a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection – or a touchscreen on the camera.
Sorry if I’ve been like a broken record on this, but touch-control really speeds-up menu navigation and setting selection. It’s especially useful if you’re shooting video as you can switch AF point silently with a gentle tap on the screen. The A9 and A7R III both have a touchscreen and although Sony has made limited use of it for controlling those cameras, it comes in handy. It could be especially useful with a video-centric camera because it lets you adjust settings with a light touch on the screen, avoiding both sound and vibration during recording.