Apple might have been making big noises about the iPhone 12 Pro’s video capabilities, but let’s face it: if you’re an enthusiastic amateur making a movie, you’re ideally doing it on a dedicated camera with interchangeable lenses – and Sony would like that camera to be its new A7S III.
Who’s it for?
At £3,800 sans lens, it’s one of Sony’s priciest full-frame models. Made with demanding enthusiast and professional types in mind, it offers some of the most advanced video options on a consumer camera: Ultra HD 4K capture at up to 120fps, 16-bit RAW HDMI output, a variety of log and HDR recording modes and extreme sensitivity for improved low-light performance.
The A7S III’s 12.1MP shots aren’t as detail-rich as some cameras, but dynamic range is excellent
The result is some of the best video we’ve ever seen from a consumer camera. The log modes and 10- and and 16-bit recording gives videographers huge scope for precise colour grading and editing, while the slow-motion capabilities afforded by 120fps recording make capturing buttery smooth footage easier than ever. With most cameras there’s a noticeable drop in image quality to compensate for high-frame-rate recording’s demands, but here you can capture 120fps at 4K and it remains gorgeously detailed and clean.
While the A7S III is a video camera first and foremost, its high sensitivity, accurate autofocus and shooting speed make it a dab hand for stills, too. We can’t see many stills-first photographers opting for the 12.1MP A7S III over the 61MP A7R IV, but it can certainly do a job – particularly if fast shutter speeds and low-light photography are important.
The A7S III bears a strong resemblance to older A7 series cameras, with one notable exception: a flip-out touchscreen. Previous models had a tilting display, but never one that faced fully forward – something vloggers and other self-shooters have been crying out for – so this change is a welcome one.
Elsewhere, things are smartly done. The OLED viewfinder is crisp, bright and lag-free, there are twin card slots (which take not only SD but the new, tiny and ultra-fast CFexpress Type A), and the camera body is weatherproof and sturdy. Even the video record button is nicely sized.
Living with it
Video is the A7S III’s bread and butter, but it can grab striking photos too
Sony’s in-camera menu design has attracted ire in the past for its labyrinthine nature, which meant finding a particular option could take multiple button presses. Thankfully it’s been given a much-needed overhaul here, simplifying the layout and making it easier to see where everything sits.
Another big benefit is its long shooting time, which benefits from a new battery design to give around 60 per cent improved performance than on the A7S II. Sony claims that equates to about 600 stills or 95 minutes of video recording, and our testing bears that out.
Sony’s hybrid autofocus system expertly tracks human faces and eyes, which takes a lot of work out of videos when you’re shooting people – including yourself. You can move around in the frame and the camera will track your face, keeping you sharply in focus.
On-the-hoof videographers will also appreciate what Sony has done for stability. Not only does the camera have 5-axis in-body image stabilisation to correct for several types of movement that come with handheld shooting, its internal gyro sensor captures data that allows you (via Sony’s Catalyst Browse desktop software) to quickly correct for camera shake in post-production.
The camera’s image stabilisation makes handheld telephoto shots a breeze
This works brilliantly and almost replicates the effect you’d get from using a gimbal, but it does require you to crop in and is restricted to certain video formats and resolutions.
Why oh why?
It’s tricky to find fault with Sony’s choices and implementation here, but nitpickers might point to the fact that it can’t record at 8K resolution – something Canon’s EOS R5 pulls off. 8K video is something only a tiny proportion of users will be looking for, however.
We’d also have liked a tally light to indicate when the camera is recording video. Sony instead has an option that turns the screen border red, but it’s not as immediately noticeable.
Users have documented instances of the A7S III overheating and cutting out when recording long 4K videos at higher frame rates in direct sunlight, but UK readers are unlikely to encounter enough of that to cause a problem. We certainly didn’t have any warmth issues during our time with the camera.
So, should I buy it?
If you’re a videographer already invested in the Sony E mount system, you should make this camera yours as soon as possible. It’s a stellar video performer packed with features, simpler to use than previous generations and built like a tank.
Likewise, newcomers with a big pot of cash and even bigger dreams of becoming a filmmaker should give the A7S III careful consideration. We can’t think of a consumer camera that will do a better job.
For those who don’t own thousands of pounds of Sony lenses already, or who want a more general purpose full-frame camera, Sony’s newer A7C may make more sense. It’s almost £2,000 cheaper as well as smaller and lighter, while offering a lot of the same advantages as its big brother.
More great stories from WIRED
💿 Meet the Excel warriors saving the world from spreadsheet disaster
🚀 Inside Gravity’s daring mission to make jetpacks a reality
🧥 Don’t get cold this winter. How to the get the most out of your home heating
🔊 Listen to The WIRED Podcast, the week in science, technology and culture, delivered every Friday
👉 Follow WIRED on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn
Get WIRED Daily, your no-nonsense briefing on all the biggest stories in technology, business and science. In your inbox every weekday at 12pm UK time.
Thank You. You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter. You will hear from us shortly.
Sorry, you have entered an invalid email. Please refresh and try again.