The Alpha 7S, or A7S is the third in Sony’s Alpha 7-series of full-frame compact system cameras.
The earlier A7R has 36 million pixels and the A7, 24 million pixels, but the A7S has just 12 million. However, this means that the pixels on the sensor are larger and this has enabled Sony to give the camera a maximum sensitivity setting of ISO 409,600 – the same as the Nikon D4S. The lowest setting is ISO 50, giving plenty of scope for shooting in bright conditions.
Another key spec for this camera is it’s ability to shoot 4K video to an external recorder. It’s also possible to shoot Full-HD direct to a memory card inserted into the camera.
Sony has given the A7S lots of control over video and there’s a Picture Profile option that allows you to adjust features such as Black Level, Gamma and Knee or highlight compression. The gamma options also include Sony’s S-Log2 setting for extending dynamic range and generating footage that’s ripe for grading.
Our tests indicate that the A7S produces superb Full-HD footage, but to get the benefit from the available adjustments you really need to use an external recorder connected via the HDMI port. Helpfully, there’s a cable tidy included in the box to keep any cables connected.
I find these textured grips exceptionally comfortable and even with this chunky 24-70mm f/4 lens or the bigger 70-200mm f/4 lens, the camera feels secure in my hand. I’ve used it without a strap throughout my testing.
Thanks to magnesium alloy sections the camera body also has a nice solid feel, and weatherproof seals mean you can use it in rain or snow.
These two metal dials have a high-quality feel, but the exposure compensation dial could do with a lock as I found it gets knocked out of position occasionally.
Exposure is adjusted using these front and rear controls, and they’re easy to operate with the camera held to your eye. I also like the fact that you can move quickly through the huge sensitivity range using this scroll wheel.
In its default arrangement the C1 button here accesses the Focus Settings options which includes AF point selection mode. I found it better to move it to this button, so I can press it with my thumb and then use the surrounding navigation controls to select the point I need.
After the button has been pressed, the scroll wheel can be used to navigate the AF point selection options.
As it’s a compact system camera, the Alpha 7S has an electronic viewfinder. This is a half-inch device with 2.36-million dots and provides a very clear view with plenty of detail.
The 3-inch nine-hundred-and twenty-one-thousand-six-hundred-dot LCD screen is also very good although you need to set the brightness to ‘Sunny weather’ on a summer’s day even if the sun isn’t out.
The tilting mechanism is useful if you’re shooting landscape images from high or low angles, but it’s no help with upright images. In addition, the level can be tricky to see on the main screen as the indicator line is quite thin.
Because it only has 12.2 million effective pixels the Alpha 7S can’t resolve as much detail as competing cameras, but noise is controlled well throughout the sensitivity range. I wouldn’t recommend using ISO 409,600 routinely, but the results are generally better than those from the 16-million pixel D4S at the same sensitivity.
Like the A7R, the A7S uses just contrast-detection for automatic focusing. I found this to be pretty snappy in good light and reasonable in low light. It wouldn’t be my first camera of choice for shooting sport, but it’s capable of latching onto moving subjects and tracking them across the frame in good light.
On the whole exposures are good from the Alpha 7S, but you need to keep an eye on highlights, especially if you’re shooting just JPEG files and occasionally use the exposure compensation control. Colours are also good, looking natural in the default Creative Style mode.
The A7S is the most expensive Alpha 7-series CSC to date, it currently retails for around 2,500 US dollars or 2,100 british pounds.
I think that this and its comparatively low pixel count means it’s unlikely to appeal to many enthusiast photographers. However, it has plenty of appeal to serious videographers who want to build a rig around a small full-frame camera with a huge sensitivity range.
These users will also like the ability to expand the camera’s featureset with things like remote control and time lapse shooting for a small fee via Sony’s PlayMemories Camera App compatibility.