Recently I FINALLY had the chance to try out a Sony a7S (even though I’m super late to the party, as there's a new version out of this camera lol), during a recent Wedding I photographed. I was so thrilled to get my hands on this camera and for good reasons! It’s the low light Queen of cameras and it’s everything that this camera has been hyped up to be and then some!
I’m sure some are going to wonder why am I reviewing this camera first, vs the newer a7S II. That’s because if you all remember from my Sony a7R II review I mentioned I wasn’t a fan of the larger bodied cameras and favor the 1st generation ones, so that’s why I got the 7S for this wedding.
What I think about the a7S camera
This is a fine camera for anyone in cinematography, but it’s even great for photography also! Many don’t think of this as a photographers camera, as it only has 12MP’s, but I assure you that 12MP is actually more than enough for many. I can still print beyond a 24x36 inch image with that and rarely do I print higher than that.
With the low light performance of this camera it’s a win win for anyone who uses it for that sole purpose alone! You can use this camera at such a high ISO and still have clean video and images! It’s so impressive, it’s almost like what kind of Jesus made sensor did Sony put in this camera?!?!
Lenses used with the a7S
Carl ZEISS FE 16-35mm f/4 (Amazon) - I’ve recently switched from the Sony E 10-18mm to this one for my wide angle images, as I’ve moved to an entire ZEISS lens line up for this year. I still love my Sony 10-18mm lens, but this is a great native full frame option for Weddings as well. (Read my full review on this lens here)
Carl ZEISS FE 35mm f/2.8 (Amazon) - This lens is a very compact prime and better than the 16-35mm for it’s 35mm range, because of it’s f/2.8 aperture in low light situations. It’s quite an all around lens as it’s not too wide of a lens, but also not too tight for many situations. (Read my full review on this lens here)
Carl ZEISS FE 55mm f/1.8 (Amazon) - An excellent prime lens to have for any occasion, especially a wedding. The quality is so sharp and the colors from this lens are what you’d expect from a ZEISS. (Read my full review on this lens here)
Carl ZEISS Batis FE 85mm f/1.8 (Amazon) - This is a newest used addition to my Wedding collection of lenses and it rounds out my collection with the longest range lens I have available. It has a great reach and great optics for those really important shots I need, especially when i don’t want to disturb a Wedding by being too close in the way with a shorter range lens. (Read my full review on this lens here)
What do you like about the Sony a7S?
Silent Shutter - This was the first Sony camera to incorporate this feature and it was certainly a welcomed one at that! Unlike the a7 and a7r (1st generation models) and especially the R, the shutter can be quite loud for some shooting conditions. As I used this camera for a wedding I really did appreciate this feature. The only thing to note however is that with this you do get rolling shutter (quite badly unfortunately) that happens when shooting under certain lighting conditions or at a screen. Since the church I photographed in had screens you could see that happen in the background, which wasn’t too thrilling.
ISO Sensitivity - If there’s one thing anyone would want to own an S model camera for is for it’s ISO capability! It’s incredible to how far you can go in ISO with this camera and still not see any noise at all! I went as far as ISO 25,600 on this camera and did the same on my a7 and the difference is night & day. My camera had the image looking like a balled up piece of paper that I opened back up, whereas the a7s looked like an unopened pack of paper on the store shelf (talk about an analogy lol). This is essentially ideal for cinematographers as well!
Wifi & NFC - Like my other Sony cameras, this is always a favorite feature of mine, being able to share photos straight from the camera to my iPhone/iPad (works on Android also).
Compactness - I’m most amazed at the fact this is a Full Frame camera that’s this small. It’s super light and great to carry for long days worth of photographing!
Lens options - Having the flexibility to use an adapter and being able to use other brands of lenses, even the A-Mount on this tiny camera is great!
Tilt LCD screen - I love that this screen is much larger than the one on the Sony a6000. It’s a lot easier to see your images in review and also adjust settings. The screen is also a higher resolution, which I found quite noticeable compared to my a6000.
It’s great for video, but why use the Sony a7S for Weddings & it’s only 12MP?
Yes, the Sony a7S is probably the best camera for video in the Sony Alpha lineup, at the writing of this review but it’s a great image taker as well.
I use the a7S for Weddings because of what I mentioned earlier about it’s low light capability. I don’t use flash during Weddings and being able to use a higher ISO and still come away with noise free images is an incredible feature to have! My clients are really amazed by this, as they’re use to photographers having big flashes to get a good image but yet I don’t use them.
I’m able to shoot to ISO 50,000 on this camera and still have beautiful looking images that print VERY well I might add in a Wedding album for my clients. With the ZEISS lenses I use I’m able to take advantage of the cameras capability to the fullest and have images at such an ISO range that are still usable. If I use lower quality lenses then this may not be the case, as they wouldn’t have the resolving power to keep up with the cameras sensor.
There are better Sony’s however, like the Sony a7R II, which does have a very great job at low light, but the Sony a7S still excels in the better performance. The upside is the 42MP, but for Weddings I don’t need that much resolution for photos. 24 does just fine at the max for me.
Even though this camera is 12MP it’s absolutely perfect for Weddings. It’s not too big or too small of a MP count to where I wouldn’t be able to blow up an image in size if I wanted to. I don’t crop photos usually and get them framed perfectly in camera, as with 12MP you don’t have much cropping room (this is where a higher MP camera makes a better choice). Most times I am shooting with two cameras and my other camera body is usually the Sony a7/a7 II, which are 24MP and used for my images where I want more detail/resolution. 12MP is capable of prints above a 24x36 (as I’ve gone this far with a 10MP camera), so those that say this isn’t suitable for print certainly has no clue to what they’re talking about.
Conclusion: Who is/isn’t this for?
If night photography or low light photography/cinematography is much of your work then you for sure NEED this camera! At the present moment I don’t think there’s really a camera that can even compete with this one in that area. There’s also the Sony a7S II, which is the latest and adds IBIS and direct in camera 4K video recording (1st version has 4K but you must have an external source to be able to utilize it). I promise you can’t go wrong with this camera.
In the above image you can see just how incredible the a7s is at high ISO’s, over my a7! Just to show that there’s nothing funny being done here I took images from the back of the camera’s LCD screen on my phone... to show that they’re still IN the camera and not edited in any way! That’s actual true power of the Sony a7s at work!
If you’re a photographer switching from another brand, such as Nikon or Canon, then you may be more into the Mark 2 version of this camera instead (Sony a7S II). If you’re not wanting to rid of your Nikon and Canon glass and want to use on your Sony camera, then it will be more beneficial with the bodies with IS built in.
See additional images and videos on YouTube on the Sony a7S, of my uses with it. All images have also been post processed from their RAW files, using Adobe Lightroom.