What Sets Sony Apart In The Video World

What Sets Sony Apart In The Video World

If you began shooting video within the last five to eight years, it's quite likely that you rode the "5D Mark II wave." Maybe you didn't own a 5D, and still don't, but that camera revolutionized the world of video production forever. Not only did that camera enable many "budget" filmmakers to make top notch content, it inspired almost every manufacturer to begin shoving video into every camera they could. No longer was it necessary to buy a dedicated video camera to create motion pictures. While I will certainly credit Canon with originally bringing professional video capability to the masses, I have to hand it to Sony for rocketing "DLSR video" to another level entirely. 

The Standout Feature: A Complete System

Sony makes a lot of cameras. Canon is likely the only manufacturer with a catalog as large as theirs. Here's the cool thing for video shooters, from the $950 RX100IV, to the mind-blowing A7SII, to the min-numbingly priced F55, they all have the magical gamma curve that is S-Log. Why in the world does that matter? The way that S-Log flattens your histogram is crazy. In fact, the footage looks disgusting straight out of camera. Since your histogram in all bunched up together and (if exposed correctly) you have zero clipped shadows or highlights. From what I can tell, a proper grade will bring this footage close to the dynamic range of the infamous RED/Arri cinema cameras (at a fraction of the price mind you). Because almost all of their cameras have S-Log, you can have a camera for every occasion that is recording in the same format (XAVC or XAVCS depending on the camera) and gamma curve, making for easy assembly of a multi-camera production. How cool would it be to shoot a three camera interview setup and copy paste your grade between your a6300, A7Sii, and FS7?

Time-lapse App

I know, Nikon has it built in, some Canons do, and you can find a time-lapse remote for any other body. Sony's time-lapse app (available through the Play Memories Store on your camera) allows you to program a time-lapse all in camera with some brilliant added features to boot. There is the standard interval and number of frames selection, but there is also the ability to have the camera merge the images into a video in camera, just give you raws, or both. You can even tell it whether or not the camera should track exposure (bulb-ramping) for day-to-night/night-to-day time-lapse footage. But wait, there's more. It tells you how long your footage will be in either 24p or 30p, how long it will take to shoot, gives you an option to shoot the stills in 16:9 as opposed to 3:2, and the programming of various other features to keep your post production workflow as simple as possible. 

There's even more. Somewhat recently, they added an extra for the time-lapse app called the "angle shift add-on." This neat piece of software allows you to take the time-lapse that you just created and add pan, tilt, zoom, or a combination of those through automated cropping. The stills are either 12, 24, or 42 megapixels, 1080p footage is 2.5mp max, so there's a lot of room to move around the frame. Pretty cool huh?

Price Points

The RX100IV, as stated, is $950. The only problem with this camera is the tiny sensor. The A7xII cameras are wildly capable for their price point (to me, more so than Canon options but we may see that change if the 5D Mark IV comes to fruition). Slow motion? You got it. Unbeatable low light performance? Yours. Every major input aside from SDI and XLR? You betcha. You could rig an A7Sii with a Rode Videomic, some headphones, a light, a monitor, and throw it on a gimbal ready to go. From there, the prices go up but you get higher frame rates, less compression, SDI and XLR built into the cameras, and mad street cred. 

A Camera for Everybody

Sort of the same thing with the price point option, but the distinction doesn't end there. Each camera is capable of something the others aren't. The A7Sii has amazingly low noise at virtually any ISO, the A7Rii will shoot enormous time lapse footage so you can crop to your hearts content, the RX100IV is pocket-sized, the FS7 will slow down motion that confuses human eyesight, etc. No matter what you're shooting, Sony offers a camera for you. 

Spencer Lookabaugh's picture

Spencer Lookabaugh is a lifestyle and portrait photographer located in Columbus, Ohio, as well as an employee of Midwest Photo Exchange. He is a firm believer in printing, shooting film and digital, and the power of photography. He also shoots landscape work in his spare time.

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I concur. I had both Nikon & Sony DSLR cameras to work with for a low-budget video shoot this past week. Even though on paper the Nikon should've had better 'performance', the Sony's ease of use for video functionality blew it out of the water.

I just shot my school final short movie on Nikon D810's. They were good, but I felt a little uneasy for some reason. I love the footage that comes out of the Sonys, but I cant figure out their menu systems and the "hvcxqps" file system. I have a a6000 that I have used for the "last minute fast projects" that i forgot to do. The only thing that pisses me off is their file system and menus systems, oh and lack of lenses...and the fact they have a history of dumping systems.

Sony dumping systems? What are you talking about? And I can use any lens with mine. Its an amazing solution.

They really have a mature line up of offerings now for everyone. I've been shooting sony for a while but almost pulled the trigger on a canon c100 because it had the right form factor and features for video. But the FS5 came out and that all changed. Now quite a few of my friends with C100s are all looking at the FS5 for their next camera.

I'm going to be renting an FS5 soon for a project but I'm not incredibly well versed in color grading outside of using Adobe Speedgrade and their LUTs. Do you think it's relatively straightforward for someone like myself to color grade the LOG footage?

It is, there's lots of guys with free S-log2/3 luts out there, check out Alistair Chapmans site he's got incredible info on the cine profiles, luts and settings.
I actually use the Cine profiles a lot more, there's so much customization, Cine1,3,4 give you about 11 stops so it's great for quick edits, a quick grade and they look gorgeous.
The log profiles are really easy to work with once you get used to how their curve works, I did a ton of tests over a weekend in all conditions to see how they respond.

thank you! I meant to say, "I'm not incredibly well versed" but it came out "I'm incredibly well versed" lol.

I will check that out. I just wanted to make sure I'm not going to film with it and then be out of luck when I get to grading the footage.

The comments below don't seem to care for the tones in daytime shooting, which my project will be heavily shot in daytime.

You forgot to tell everyone that the S-log gamma only works from ISO800 - not great for daytime filming unless you're shooting through a ND filter.

I'd love you to compare the best of Sony offerings to the new 1DX. As a Sony ARII user, I'm genuinely interested in what Canon has come up with.

The only thing I've ever known to be "magical" about any S-Log is how ridiculously difficult they make it to properly grade footage. The boost in the oranges and yellows make almost all daytime footage look like a cartoonish over saturated mess.

I am not a coloroist, and the few times I shot SLog-2 I can say it was beyond a nightmare. I would rather shoot a canon C series and just deal with the the colors I get. slog ruined me.

I was very sceptical of the sony camera's until I saw what could be done with them. I'm now waiting for my FS7 to arrive next week!