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
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.
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.
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.