Field Test: Sony A7S for Still Photographers – Part 2

When the Sony A7S was announced at NAB, it garnered lots of attention because it’s ability to shoot native 4K video without line-skipping, pixel binning or interpolation. But it was the A7S’s ability to shoot up to ISO 409,600 that had many still photographers wondering if the A7S might just be the perfect low-light still camera.

That’s exactly what Sony engineers had in mind. The “S” stands for “sensitivity”. The 12.2mp Sony A7S (Amazon | B&H) is wisely positioned to meet the demands of photographers who want low noise at extremely high ISOs joining the 24.3mp Sony A7 (Amazon | B&H) and 36.4mp Sony A7R (Amazon | B&H) in Sony’s line-up of fullframe mirrorless cameras.

High Sensitivity. Low Noise.

The A7S ISO tops out at just over a whopping FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND. That’s right ISO 400K. I’m always a skeptical when comes to top ISO ratings, rarely venturing to the top levels. So I immediately took the cameras out for a test and was amazed at that ISO 102,400 looks extremely clean. This will be a huge bonus for photojournalists, documentary and sports photographers and anyone else who shoot in low light. And paparazzi along with private eyes, spies and the guys from CSI are gonna LOVE ISO 409,600!

Here are a few shots processed in Lightroom, my post-processing software of the choice. Sony A7S RAW files are supported with the latest Lightroom 5.5 and Adobe Camera Raw 8.5 updates for Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop CC.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Aussie Futbol Fans toast their team in Rio de Janeiro’s Lapa neighborhood
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | 1/30 sec | F2.8 | ISO 6400 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Our lovely girl from Ipanema, Ana Carolina Kruschewsky at Sacrilegio
Sony A7S | FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens | 1/50 sec | F4 | ISO 25,600 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP

Natal, Brazil
Natal, Brazil
Elvis gotta love when USA Futbol wins Thankyouverymuch!
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | 1/320 sec | F5.0 | ISO 51,200 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP

ISO TESTS: ISO 100-409,600

These tests shot were RAW and processed in Sony Image Data Converter 4.2.03 using the default settings to give you a baseline standard. But it’s extremely easy to fine-tune noise reduction to your taste for any given ISO. All tests were shot with both High ISO Noise Reduction and Long Exposure NR turned off in-camera. I ALWAYS suggest you TURN OFF one-size-fits-all in-camera noise reduction and instead adjust noise reduction in-post to your taste.

A7S_ISO_100
Sony A7S ISO Tests 100% Crop
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | F13 | 1/2 sec | ISO 100 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP


A7S_ISO_200
Sony A7S ISO Tests 100% Crop
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | F13 | 1/4 sec | ISO 200 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP


A7S_ISO_400
Sony A7S ISO Tests 100% Crop
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | F13 | 1/8 sec | ISO 400 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP


A7S_ISO_800
Sony A7S ISO Tests 100% Crop
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | F13 | 1/15 sec | ISO 800 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP


A7S_ISO_1600
Sony A7S ISO Tests 100% Crop
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | F13 | 1/30 sec | ISO 1600 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP


A7S_ISO_3200
Sony A7S ISO Tests 100% Crop
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | F13 | 1/60 sec | ISO 3200 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP


A7S_ISO_6400
Sony A7S ISO Tests 100% Crop
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | F13 | 1/125 sec | ISO 6400 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP


A7S_ISO_12800
Sony A7S ISO Tests 100% Crop
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | F 13 | 1/250 sec | ISO 12,800 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP


A7S_ISO_25600
Sony A7S ISO Tests 100% Crop
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | F 13 | 1/500 sec | ISO 25,600 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP


A7S_ISO_51200
Sony A7S ISO Tests 100% Crop
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | F 13 | 1/1000 sec | ISO 51,200 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP


A7S_ISO_102400
A7S_ISO_102400_crop
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | F 13 | 1/2000 sec | ISO 102,400 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP


A7S_ISO_204800
A7S_ISO_204800_crop
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | F 13 | 1/4000 sec | ISO 204,800 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP


A7S_ISO_409600
A7S_ISO_409600_crop
Sony A7S | FE 35mm F2.8 ZA | F 13 | 1/4000 sec | ISO 409,600 | CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP

RAW -vs- JPEG Comparison

Despite my preference for shooting RAW, I ran a comparison between in-camera jpeg and RAW processed in Sony Image Data Converter 4.2.03 using the default settings and to my eyes they’re virtually identical. Once again, the key to good in-camera jpegs is to TURN OFF HIGH ISO NOISE REDUCTION.

Sony A7S ISO Tests 100% Crop
CLICK TO ENLARGE 100% CROP


EQUIPMENT LIST:

Sony A7S Camera (Amazon | B&H)
Sony A7R Camera (Amazon | B&H)
Sony FE 35mm F2.8 ZA Lens (Amazon | B&H)
Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens (Amazon | B&H)
Sony FE 24-70mm F4 ZA Lens (Amazon | B&H)
Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS Lens (Amazon | B&H)
Sony LA-EA4 Lens Mount Adapter (Amazon | B&H)
Sony SAL 70-400mm F4-5.6 G II Lens (Amazon | B&H)
Sony Sling Bag Carrying Case (Amazon | B&H)
Sony Alpha DSLR Camera/15″ Laptop Backpack (Amazon | B&H)
Sony 32GB SDHC Class 10 UHS-1 Memory Cards (Amazon | B&H)
Processed in Adobe Lightroom 5 (Amazon | B&H)


 

SONY A7S FIELD TEST: PART 1 – WORLD CUP FUTBOL FEVER
SONY A7S FIELD TEST: PART 2 – HIGH ISO. LOW NOISE.
SONY A7S FIELD TEST: PART 3 – HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE
SONY A7S FIELD TEST: PART 4 – FAST FOCUS IN LOW LIGHT
SONY A7S FIELD TEST: PART 5 – SILENT SHOOTING MODE

CONTINUE TO PART 3 – HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE

 

Sony-a7-Snapshots-bookFor more tips and tricks about getting the most out of your Sony a7 series camera, check out my book ‘Sony a7-Series: From Snapshots to Great Shots’. It’s your guide to all of the Sony a7 Series I & II cameras. While the camera manual explains what the camera can do, it doesn’t show how to use the camera to create great images! Starting with the Top Ten things users need to know about the cameras, author Brian Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and Sony Artisan of Imagery, carefully guides you through the operating features of Sony a7, a7R, a7S, a7II and a7RII and how to use them. Get practical advice from a pro on which settings to use when, great shooting tips, and assignments at end of chapter to practice what you’ve just learned.
‘Sony A7 Series: From Snapshots to Great Shots’ is available NOW from Amazon

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8 thoughts on “Field Test: Sony A7S for Still Photographers – Part 2”

  1. Pingback: Field Test: Sony A7S for Still Photographers - Part 3

  2. Pingback: Field Test: Sony A7S for Still Photographers - Part 4

  3. Mr Smith; I have the A7R – kind of nervous about shutter vibration but have not noticed myself. Steve Huff says the A7S is the king of cameras; do you consider the A7S to be a “special purpose” camera or a better choice than A7R for family/holiday photography (would have loved to say art photography, but 99 % is loved ones and nice buildings in nice cities…)?

    1. I have not experienced shutter vibration either. I think any issues can be traced to poor technique. It seems to be a non-issue if you hold the camera properly or lock it down on a good tripod. As for the differences between cameras, A7R is made for maximum resolution where the A7S is made for high sensitivity making it the perfect camera for low light. If you don’t need the resolution of the A7R’s 36mp sensor – the A7S might be a fine choice as an all-around camera if 12mp suits your needs.

  4. Pingback: Field Test: Sony A7S for Still Photographers - Part 1

  5. Hi Brian. Thanks for this great series on the A7S. I just wanted to know if you’ve applied any noise reduction to these shots.

  6. Pingback: Field Test: Sony A7S for Still Photographers - Part 5

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