Sony has been releasing new technology as fast as you could dream it up in the recent months and you had to wonder, “when will this massive outpouring of tech begin to slow?”
I think that we’re seeing that incredible flow stutter somewhat with the release of the Sony a7S II.
Before you get onto me too much, just give me a minute to explain. The camera looks fantastic. It has the gorgeous and solid updated body, 5-axis sensor stabilization, internal 4k and updated frame rates. Last but most definitely not least, Slog-3. All of these are amazing upgrades and they do take the camera up a notch.
But what are we missing?
At first glance it didn’t feel like anything was missing. That 4k that was just an external recorder away is now conveniently placed into the camera. How much money does that save you? A great deal, that’s for sure. So what’s missing?
The awkward rolling shutter that the original a7S was burdened by will be somewhat relieved with the addition of 5-axis sensor stabilization. This helps to alleviate one of the biggest problems with the a7S. As an a7S shooter, I can tell you that this will help so much. That little tiny bump you have in your slider? It’ll smooth that right out.
So really, what’s missing?
All of these upgrades come as somewhat of a let down when you consider it’s recent predecessors. The Sony a7II showed what the Sony NEX series could feel like. The body upgrades showed Canon and Nikon shooters that Mirrorless cameras aren’t toys. They’re made for pros. The a7RII did the rest, showing massive megapixel power, and 4k options.
So what has the a7S II done that hasn’t been done already? Slog-3, is an upgrade from Slog-2, and also, 120fps at 1080 will be very useful for cinematographers out there. There’s no doubting that. But what we’re seeing right now is more like a trim, or haircut, rather than a full makeover.
The a7S II doesn’t feel like a new camera. We’re still dealing with generally the same hardware minus the obvious upgrades and similar software. The updated bitrate aside, we’re still looking at a relatively similar image.
I’m not one to say that I don’t want Slog-3. I’ve worked with Slog-3 images and I think that they’re incredibly flexible, forgiving and just downright gorgeous, but it’s not what I wanted. I wanted a more stable and sturdy codec (updated bitrate somewhat accomplishes this) and most importantly, I wanted better external options.
I’m sure many of you out there will complain about this, and I totally get it, but it just hasn’t convinced me to upgrade. When I upgrade cameras, I not only want new options, I want to have the ability to do what I’m already doing, better. The a7S II just isn’t making a strong argument for me.
When I first shot with the a7S, the flexibility absolutely stunned me. I could take advantage of almost any time of day, and environment with the sensor. The 59.94fps footage wowed me, and we don’t even need to discuss the low light. But before I even hit the, “buy” button on B&H, I hesitated and thought, “You know, the GH4 has that 10bit out.”
Almost a year later, I’m still always wishing that I could get those two extra bits out of the a7S. Despite the frustration of dealing with the body, rolling shutter and menu system of the a7S, the only thing that I TRULY wished was updated was that. With the announcement of the a7S II, I’m still wishing for this.
The a7S II has taken all of the tech we’ve seen that Sony has and combined them into a very strong, video centric camera. What it hasn’t done, is wowed us with something new. In many ways, the option for internal 4k feels like it belonged in the original a7S.
How do you feel about the Sony a7S II? You can’t deny it’s powerful. But is it in any way unexpected? And most importantly, will you be buying one?
(cover photo credit: snap from B&H)