The Sony a7S III: Destined to Disappoint?

The Sony a7S III: Destined to Disappoint?

Over the last year, a fair number of very impressive cameras have been released with lots of new features both for photographers and videographers. Companies like Panasonic and Fujifilm have released feature filled exciting cameras, yet the original mirrorless full-frame camera manufacturer has been seemingly dragging its feet. 

Sony has done some incredible things with its mirrorless line of cameras. My go-to camera for video is currently the Sony a7R III for a number of reasons. The autofocus is relatively fast and reliable, the video quality (specifically for my YouTube channel) is simply fantastic, and the dynamic range is very impressive when shooting with one of the log profiles. In short, it's a brilliant camera that I highly recommend. Unfortunately, I do feel like I'm starting to outgrow the camera and there are certain features that I'd really like to see. For instance, 4k at 60p without any crop would be extremely useful to me, 10-bit and 4:2:2 would be a huge help when grading footage, and a more intuitive touchscreen would make the camera far more effective from a usability standpoint. Panasonic is a company that's been very much at the forefront when it comes to video-specific mirrorless cameras. Their GH line of micro-four-thirds cameras were some of the best at the time of their initial release and the new full-frame cameras look very impressive. Cameras like the Panasonic S1 offer fantastic video features like 4k at 60p and 10-bit recording. The issue is that I and many other Sony shooters are already settled into an ecosystem and have very little desire to switch to another. 

The main reason I've been holding back on making any new purchases because I'm hoping these features will be available in the Sony a7S II replacement; however, I get the feeling it may just end up being a disappointment.

Expectations Are High

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

I should clarify something quickly, although I think this camera might disappoint people if it has the feature I outlined above I'll personally be quite happy with it. The issue is that Sony has been building expectations for this camera for a number of years now. The a7R III came out in 2017 and the a7S II was released almost 4 years ago. Some of you might say that it's little unreasonable for people to have extremely high expectations for this camera, however, Sony hasn't done themselves any favors. One of the biggest mistakes that Nikon made prior to announcing their full-frame mirrorless cameras was to really over hype it. They were using such incredible buzzwords to describe what their new camera was going to be that when it finally arrived the only thing that was incredible was how underwhelming they actually were. Sony, unfortunately, has been doing something similar with executives describing how amazing this new camera is going to be. The problem with describing as such is that we already have pretty amazing cameras on the market now when it comes to just the specifications. In order for Sony to produce something that really stands out now, they're going to have to produce something far beyond their competitors. 

Specifications 

One of the reasons Sony has performed so well and garnered so much attention from the market was because they offered cameras with lots of features and specifications. Sony focused on specifications so much so that they happily release cameras that were relatively unfinished. The Sony a7R II was a classic example of this. This camera would overheat in normal environments while filming in 4k. I know this because I personally experienced overheating with my camera when filming with it and the weather in England isn't exactly anything to go out in. Even when I was just shooting images the camera would overheat after extended use and this made for a terrible experience. Ultimately, it didn't really matter because that camera did the job it needed to do and that was to get the attention of the market.

The a7R II was the first mirrorless camera to offer 4k 30p using the full width of the sensor. I get the feeling that Sony is trying to do something similar with the a7S III and put in as many unfinished features as they can. If they manage to put in a sensor that can shoot something like 4k 120p or even 6k, I wonder if the camera and processors will actually be capable of managing that effectively. We can assume that they've been following what the competition has been up to and due to that I get the feeling they've started to second guess the a7S III and had to delay it. Companies like Canon and Nikon are now in the fray too and in order to stand out among those companies, doing just enough might not work for them. Sure they've gained a lot of the market share but they're still pretty far behind companies like Canon. I don't think Sony wants to settle for the number two position and even that spot is somewhat disputed. The competition is pretty strong now and they're not the only company on the market that offers a full-frame mirrorless camera. 

Final Thoughts

Personally, I think that Sony shouldn't try to be the overachiever in every feasible area. Their cameras are already really good and becoming super popular with many professionals. In my view, if they deliver a camera that has a better menu system, a proper touchscreen, and improved 4k video features; that will be more than enough for most people. Also, I think a more subtle approach towards marketing won't go wrong. I get that they want to really push sales and talk about how incredible this camera is going to be but if they push it too far it's only going to lead to disappointment. I believe they've done a fantastic job in filling up their lens line-up and if they can address some of the concerns customers have raised then that should be more than enough. Oh and for the love of god, please add in a fully articulating touchscreen. The a7S series of cameras are geared heavily towards video shooters and not photographers. I get that you want to keep a more compact design but seriously, that's not what video shooters are super interested in. Photographers may prefer a tilt screen but this specific line of cameras are not geared towards them. Ultimately, I'd say Sony just needs to get the basics right before they start jumping up to things like 8k video. 

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44 Comments

So many words to say so little.

David Love's picture

Maybe it's time to stop looking for an all in one. I thought the 5d mark 4 would be mine. It shoots in 4k and the auto focus is the best on the market but then I saw the file size for one minute of video and the lack of video tools. So I picked up a GH5. Done. Two great tools used for two different jobs.

YES! I am not sure when it really started, but now it seems everyone wants one device to do everything. And, is it has to be cheap and easy to use while delivering Steven Spielberg quality results. We have multiple lenses to create effects camera bodies should be the same way.

Stefan Brink's picture

If you are making money of your work thats fine, as a pro amateur however i cant justify to pay at least 4000€/$ for each ecosystem. So i am very glad that there are good hybrids available.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

I am still wondering why so many photographers love/like to make movies. But ok, it is a plain personnal decision/liking.

Whereas, many actually are thinking taking still images and making movies is the same job, and I cannot think anything else than they are walking on water guys.

I can hear it is a neat feature to have movie capabilities in any photocameras now. It can save some time, or be the best tools in hands to snap a movie at a "fugace" moment and the only thing under hands is that photocamera.

I can hear some guys are low on budget in their photo+video business.
And having a movie body that shares the same accessories and lenses as their photocamera is a really nice "have to".

But are many so much in tight money situation ? I really wonder as many have the ability to jump from canikon to SONY, but unable to keep their canikon and get a serious moviecam because they fell in love with moviemaking jobs ?

Do they really want us to believe they are doing movie and photos at the same time, at the same spot, with the same PoV and movements during a wedding/event ?
(if even it is possible, how can they deliever not boring footage to their customers this way ? It can be nice, but it would have been far far better working in duo => it is not a pro grade job
Go pick a clever, HQ and correctly timed photo from during the church kiss or whatever)

Normaly, if they are covering an event for photos and videos, they are working at least in duo : a photographer and a moviemaker.

So what is the purpose of owning only THE all in one photo/movie wonder camera ? Do they really make us believe they only bring two moviecapable photocameras and only one bunch of lenses ? Seriously ?

If serious, why is it a problem using a specific moviecam set and a specific photocam set ? body redundancy ? hum hum, how on earth it is clever to come with only two bodies when you they two guys/women working ? It is only a low cost, really cheap and risky team. Far from being pro, whatever marvelous result they are delivering until they encounter the SPOF (Single Point Of Failure) and ruin the event coverage for their clients (it will really big and gigantic "win" that day).

So, again, we fallback into the realms of the hype, where we are now deciding witch photocamera is the best one with moviecamera features/capabilities... And this where I lost faith in human intelligence.
Many will claim movie features are usefull in the photocamera realm of tech.

I still argue then that the only help moviesensor technology brought is faster fps, maybe better high ISO noise controll (whereas is real life, in moving picture we are less annoyed by noise) and better designed and functionnal on sensor AF capabilities.
I am still wiating for real RGBW pixel in RAW file, and not the 4 RGGB photosites interpolated to build 4 RGB pixels. Go into nightclubs or event with quasi monochromatic lighting and you trounce that 36-45Mpx into shreds. And whatever 20fps or movies features set will never help me in theses conditions, sorry, but apart the lousy Sigma tech, we are still waiting for something better thand what we are now seeing in some photophones?

So, maybe the market is all amazed by MILC, I still don't find where it could be the same level of magnititude than the film to digital revolution. But go figure, marketing, storytelling is all that is necessary to please stockholders, influencers and worried customers.

Stefan Brink's picture

Well, of course its not the same job and i never do photos and videos at the same time, because its just impossible.
Thing is though, as i stated i dont make any money of photography nor videography. 90% of the time i do stills, but for a particular event once a year (Formula Student Race Cars) i love to do a video honorary.
You dont seriously suggest that its a good choice for me to buy an extra camera and possibly extra lenses for this once a year ocassion, when its perfectly possible to do this with my normal camera if its not artificially crippled by the camera manufacturer?

And even though its just a once a year occassion of course i strive for the best possible quality and features. Why would i settle for less? Is it possible to do a better video with more training and slightly worse gear: of course it is, but do i have a lot of fun trying to push my own boundaries and trying stuff with new tech? Hell yeah i have!

You have made clear, that your standpoint and approach is different, that is fine, but do not discredit others because they have different circumstances.
For me it was a nobrainer to pick up a FF Milc. I wanted to change from APS-C to FF anyways, so preowned lenses were not an argument and i didnt have to sacrifice Photo Performance for Video capability.

I really dont get your point. Money doesnt seem to be an issue for you, so an increased camera body price because of additional development costs for video features dont seem to be a factor.
Or are you trying to suggest that companies slow down on innovations for stills because they are more occupied with video features? Well, we have seen how Canon has pushed the envelope for stills shooters in recent years because they wisely choose to not integrate advanced video features into their cameras....

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

Yep, I keep saying SONY sensors are holding back photography centric innovations. Why I dare to tell this ? Just because everything SONY made so far is just getting faster reading sensor tech.
At least, it helps for OSPDAF response time. Fine.
They have to solve noise control as the always exposed sensor is a non negligible tax, and the sensor have to sustain a decent enough reading to sustain a decent EVF fps rate.

You may think it does not hurt photo tech, but in reality, the faster pace of everything is still counterproductive for photography as the gear is not using the 'longer' reading possibilities of photography at their advantage.

Ok, you like having video, at the very best possible, in your photocamera for rare events. Fine.
But the same way you are asking for having the best of video and photo, I have, and many photographers only have too,I have to bare useless features, licences and R&D cost in latest breed of photocamera just because the mass market ask for video, youtubers are asking for vlog photocameras and shareholdes want the best income rate possible.

Of course, I don't ask you to buy a cinecam for once in a year video shooting. Maybe you should just hire it, and ask photocamera manufacturer to make better accutance, better color fidelity and better color resolution instead of only crying for 20-30fps or 4K 120fps FX movie feature, don't you ?

Stefan Brink's picture

I don't think the argument that you needlessly have to pay for features that you are not using is as clear cut as you might think. These features will tempt more people to buy those cameras, so in return all the development costs are spread to a wider customer base. It would be very hard for a company to develop sensor tech solely for a small base of professional users.

As for sensor development: I think the biggest problem is a lack of competition. Canon is currently just unable to push Sony, so besides technical limitations this will surely slow down the development.

Yavor Kapitanov's picture

Is this a comment or an essay... lol

After waiting so long to refresh the camera if it’s anything less than ground breaking, it will disappoint.

Xander Cesari's picture

"The a7S series of cameras are geared heavily towards video shooters and not photographers."

No they're not. Sony has said that they only ever focused on low light performance for the S line cameras.

"Many people have enjoyed the a7S II as a video camera, but originally we designed it for stills photography users. So if we’re going to create products [specifically] for video shooters, we’ll have to modify them in the future."

https://www.dpreview.com/interviews/9676983794/cp-2019-sony-interview-fi...

Usman Dawood's picture

I'm not certain the a7S series of cameras offer any real advantage when it comes to lowlight for photographers. Almost any modern camera when scaled down to 12mp will produce comparably clean results at higher ISO.

In fact, I just downloaded files from DPRs studio shot comparison. Canon 5DSR scaled down to 12mp vs the a7S II and the Canon is as clean as the Sony but is slightly more detailed and sharper at 12800 ISO. The a7S II offer no advantage in low light even against a camera like the 5DSR which isn't known for being great in low light.

For video, however, it doesn't work in the same way. 4k will have the same resolution from a 12mp camera vs a 42mp camera however due to a number of factors the a7S II is cleaner at higher ISO.

Low-resolution cameras make more sense for video than photography, especially in low light.

Xander Cesari's picture

That's irrelevant though. When you say "the new A7S needs a flippy screen cause it's targeted at videographers" and Sony says "the A7S isn't targeted at videographers" you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

Usman Dawood's picture

It's not irrelevant I'm saying that it offers no benefit for photographers but it does for videographers thereby making it a more viable option for video shooters. Sony already has photo-centric cameras and the a7sII is predominantly used for its video features regardless of whether or not you agree or not. Your agreement doesn't change how the market uses this camera and how it's developed.

It would make sense to add a fully articulating tilt screen to this because the majority of the market that uses this camera are video shooters not photographers.

Who cares what Sony says their camera is for the market determines it and if they're smart they'll continue to develop for the largest market that uses this system.

Xander Cesari's picture

Doesn't matter what I agree with, it matters what Sony wants to build. The premise of your article is that you expect to be disappointed that Sony doesn't put enough video features in the new camera that you want. Meanwhile Sony's over there saying that the line isn't intended to be a video camera. Cue your surprised Pikachu face because you stuck your fingers in your ears.

I think it would be a great idea to do an A7V line or something and go video focused or repurpose the A7S line into a video camera. That sounds like a great camera. But I'm not gonna act all surprised if Sony doesn't do that since they never said they would and in fact gave us a pretty strong indication that they won't.

Hans Rosemond's picture

I think Sony has marketing people who say what they want about their product when it's convenient. Even if in this particular interview Sony says it wasn't designed as a video camera, in the original press release it refers to the camera as a "Video Master." That, to me, doesn't seem like shying away from the cameras video capabilities. It's promoting them. If Sony wants to pivot away from that role with their marketing, that's their prerogative. But let's not pretend they didn't embrace the camera as both a stills and video camera originally. https://presscentre.sony.eu/pressreleases/sony-expands-range-of-compact-...

Usman Dawood's picture

I don't expect to be disappointed. I think that it's very likely Sony will release a camera with 4k 60p which is all that I need and nothing more. I'm saying that it's destined to disappoint due to expectations and how they've been hyping it up a little. I'm going to be quite happy if it does 4k 60p with little or no crop.

Ted Mercede's picture

I do not own a Sony, nor ever used one so maybe I'm speaking from ignorance on their capabilities. I highly doubt that they will be able to give you full frame 60fps with little to no crop based on it being predominantly a stills camera with its data rate transfer speed and storage media capabilities.
I think that it would require a complete design change to be able to do what you would like from it.

Usman Dawood's picture

"I should clarify something quickly, although I think this camera might disappoint people if it has the feature I outlined above I'll personally be quite happy with it"

Keith Mullin's picture

My best guess, and this is all speculation, is that they HAD an A7S3 ready to go for release about a year ago, but it was nothing terribly impressive when compared with the new (at that time) A73. The typical domain of the S version of the A7's has always been low light performance, and yes the A7S2 was a real wonder in this area, particularly in video. However, the A73 is very nearly as good as the S2, and with a ton of features that the S2 lacks, like phase detect auto focus, better IBIS, higher resolution stills, etc. Unless the S3 as planned was leaps and bounds better in some way, no one was going to pay the premium. Now that there is more competition on the market, it really is going to have to be impressive spec wise to justify the price. It can't just be a moderate improvement on the previous model, which is why I think we haven't seen it yet.

Rayann Elzein's picture

I'm inclined to agree with this... I'm waiting for the S3 to come out, so that I can get a S2 for a bargain. I like the S1 very much but would love to get IBIS and in-body 4K capabilities :)

Eric Salas's picture

The developers have said multiple times in public statements that they have not had the A7S3 ready because they don’t want to put a camera out that is just “good”.
4k 60p will be a walk in the park for the S3, I’m thinking 8k 30 or a minimum of 4k 120 considering they already came out with memory to read and write for it (that’s not being a fanboy, that’s looking at technology now and how it’s already going 8k).

Keith Mullin's picture

I believe the public statements of the developers not at all, lol. It makes no sense that they wouldn't have had an S3 near to completion when they releases the 73. That's the way the releases have always gone. All previous camera models have released within a few months of each other. Here we are over a year after the 73 was released and still no S model. I read their statements as "we had something ready, but its not good enough, so we are working on it".

I think we will see 4k 60 and 10-bit 4:2:2, possibly RAW output via HDMI. Add in all of the other improvements from the other 3 series cameras and you would have something that would be pretty great. I don't think we will see any higher resolution for a few reasons. 1. Higher resolution would be much harder to achieve the low light sensitivity which has always been the focus of the S series. 2. Heat build up reading high resolution would make it difficult for the cameras to handle. 3. They do not want to cannibalize sales from their pro video cameras like the FS7, VENICE, and whatever is coming next.

Eric Salas's picture

The reason the statements make sense is because they were blunt as can be when saying it wasn’t ready and still in development.
Higher resolution in an FF format may not make sense and isn’t the S line’s place but I wouldn’t hold back on Sony releasing a MF camera either.
Everyone has their own take on things but IMO Sony hasn’t put out a camera that has been a compromise since they released the A7Riii. That gives promise at the least.

Nobody needs 6 or 8k that's just some absurd vanity spec-porn that isn't actually useful to the target market of this camera. If stills were your thing why wouldn't you just buy the riii? The people who want this camera, across the board, are people who shoot video. Mostly videojournalists, video content producers, and hobbyists who make youtube shows or whatever. 4k60p 10 bit with IBIS is fine for that crowd. It really is enough already, just release the camera. If they really are trying to stuff 6k into this camera it's just stupid. People who genuinely need that resolution for work are going to buy a RED or the FS7iii.

They really do just need to put this thing out soon, I need to upgrade and if I don't hear anything by September I'm going to buy a GH5.

Eric Salas's picture

My Riii is what I use for my photos and I use the S2 for video (check portfolios before telling someone what they should do).

Saying 6 or 8k is ridiculous; I agree. Saying nobody wants it or will use it is a stretch because that’s where technology is going. Whether we as consumers deem it necessary or useful doesn’t really matter because the trade shows are displaying 8k already... it’s going to happen regardless.

My stance is that I believe Sony will put out something to push the market further, it’s what they’ve promised and said that’s why the camera hasn’t been completed.

The Riii, 7iii, 6400, and the recent firmware improvements haven’t disappointed; it’s not a far shot to believe the Siii will deliver.

Yavor Kapitanov's picture

To be honest 8K is really not a practical thing right now... practically speaking. You would have to drop everything you own and buy new tech to handle 8k workflow, from sd-cards to ssd-drives. I really don't see 8k being a thing this year, or even maybe next year.

Eric Salas's picture

People still say and think 4k isn’t practical either because the majority don’t view in 4k but most will argue a camera is missing a needed feature if it doesn’t have it.

Because of the tech that the A9 offers compared to the A7iii, I'd say that there are plenty of ways to make the A7Siii an incredible, impressive camera. The viewfinder, the physical AF processor, ...there's a whole lot about the A7iii that is noticeably inferior to the A9, and they could certainly put some of that tech in the A7Siii and make it a very, very tempting camera. I know I'd certainly buy a 12-megapixel A9 that has insane low-light video capability, even if it cost ~$3K! (And yes, historically the A7S series has always cost more than the A7 series, so it wouldn't be unprecedented...)

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