Bottom line: hear hear, competition, Sony does it again, betting the market does need a 12MP full-frame camera with fewer, but larger pixels that see in the dark. Sony is once again pushing the envelope with the A7S, a high sensitivity monster delivering ISO 50 to 409,600 with probably “unprecedented dynamic range,” as Sony promises, “effortlessly handling extreme highlights and rich, deep blacks in the same frame.” First and foremost the A7S is a videographer’s wet dream. It is the first full-frame camera able to read out the full width of its sensor, fast enough to output 4K 30p footage from nearly the entire frame. But what pleases videographers also delights photographers: the newly developed CMOS imager provides with high dynamic range in all conditions from extremely low light to bright sunlight. Made possible, primarily, by abdicating the pixels race.
When I joined the digital rat race 5MP were, well, not enough, but looking at the photographs from back then they still please nonetheless. One might even say the more pixels we enjoy = the sloppier composition and framing get. Right, cropping is everyone’s darling. But talking reasonable print sizes (for Web and social media publishing it’s a no-brainer anyway) 12.2MP are completely adequate to what most photographers need.
Now Sony puts ISO 409,600 in our pockets. That’s just insane. Back then when pushing a roll of film from 400 to, at most, 1,600, no one would have ever thought that digital photography gives us a half a million ISO sensitivity… Right, some time down the road we’ll cross the ISO 1m threshold… We’ll see in the dark with perfect shadows and blacks.
Not there yet, but approaching, and whatever the fine print and specifications promise about this latest A7 sibling, Sony has to be applauded to once again think outside the box. Guess it wasn’t the technical challenge to put 4k into a small body that determined the pixel count. It was a conscious decision my world’s most innovative camera maker to present a daredevil full-framer that hits the nerve of many photographers and videographers.
Sony is going for the kill — now just imagine what the A9 will look like, expected to be launched around Photokina. Wild possibilities in unparalleled mobility. OK, there is no internal 4k, so the videographer loses some portability, but serious filmmaking never was a piece of cake in the first place regarding equipment, just to mention sound recording, and so forth. But hey you get super clean 1080/60p, no moiré, impressive high ISO, from a full-frame sensor…
Why the “low resolution” sensor? Readout speed. Fast enough that pixel binning is unnecessary, and even if it’s only in crop mode: 120 fps is possible. That’s still far better than previous full-frame video cameras. With far fewer pixel columns to read, this Sony sensor needs far fewer ADCs and therefore can get a much higher frequency readout.
Half-baked product, as some lament? Well in-body stabilization is still missing and the form factor might be not the best for videographers. The strategy, however, is genius. Big, perfect photosites rule. This camera sees in the dark. Maybe the Nikon Df has just been dethroned as the king of low light… Sony presses hard. Canon and Nikon can only dream of such innovation.
For more on the A7S and all the specs visit Sony.