Video / Hands-on Review

Sony Head to Head: a7 Mirrorless Series versus the FS7 4K Video Camera

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Just a few years ago, when DSLRs were the king in low-budget indie productions, it was easy to see the difference between the video quality of these hybrid stills/video cameras and a professional filmmaking tool. Currently, when talking about pure image quality, the differences aren’t always so obvious, and sometimes they’re practically nonexistent. With Sony’s latest and greatest mirrorless releases of the a7R II and a7S II, this line has been blurred even more, and this is the reason we set out to determine if these supposedly lower-end 4K video-recording options can hold up when put side by side with one of Sony’s professional 4K video cameras, the FS7.

"The first and, to many, the most important test of all these cameras was the dynamic range test, especially since each had its own quirks with the available settings."

To guarantee the best possible images and a neutral setup, we used a Sekonic light meter with spot and incident metering to measure light in the scenes. We also recorded everything externally using a Video Devices PIX-E5H with the ProRes 422 HQ codec and made sure to use the same lenses for each of the tests, except rolling shutter, because we had to maintain a similar field of view. Finally, we used each camera in its “best” modes, which means that the a7S II was used in full frame, the a7R II was used in its Super 35/APS-C crop mode, and the FS7 was used primarily in its CineEI mode. For a comparison of the a7R II’s 4K full-frame and 4K Super 35 modes, read our hands-on review.

We decided on these modes based on personal testing and experience. The a7S II clearly demands full frame for 4K to get full pixel readout without interpolation; the a7R II does pixel binning in full frame while it does a true down-sample in Super 35; and Sony advises the Cine EI settings for maximum quality. As a note, when we began this test, the FS5 was not yet available for testing, though for the purposes of this test we wanted to see how well these mirrorless cameras held up to an excellent, well-tested standard in the video world.

Dynamic Range

The first and, to many, the most important test of all these cameras was the dynamic range test, especially since each had its own quirks with the available settings. Heading into the test, we expected the a7R II to be the most limited, with solely the older S-Log2 gamma option available; the FS7 to have the greatest range, thanks to its S-Log3 gamma mode and variety of imaging controls; and the a7S II to sit comfortably between the two. In order to test this, we shot all of the cameras with the same tough scene: a sunny day with dark shadows and bright highlights. Each camera was kept at its base/native ISO, which is 800 for the a7R II, 1600 for the a7S II, and 2000 for the FS7.


Dynamic Range (Ungraded)

a7R II (S-Log2)



-2 EV


 
0 EV



+2 EV


a7S II (S-Log2)


 
-2 EV



0 EV



+2 EV

a7S II (S-Log3)



-2 EV



0 EV



+2 EV


FS7 (S-Log2)



-2 EV



0 EV



+2 EV

FS7 (S-Log3)



-2 EV



0 EV



+2 EV

In practice, the FS7 is the clear champion, as expected, with the reason being smoother transitions in the highlights. This is when all cameras are exposed correctly, of course. The shadows held onto detail quite well and could hold up to a normal amount of push and still be very clean. When moving to overexposure, the FS7 again retained its top spot. The a7R loses out here, with its S-Log2 only capability, since S-Log3 does a better job of keeping highlights around. Where things began to equalize was when we underexposed the cameras.

The a7 series produces a cleaner image overall, meaning that the shadows were noise free, comparatively. We saw that at -1 and -2 EV, bringing back the shadows was much easier with the mirrorless bodies than the FS7. This was surprising, because the shadows became unusable when pushed more than a stop with the FS7. In practice, this may sway many shooters to pick up an a7 for certain scenarios, since the usable dynamic range will be much greater in dark environments. See below for an entire collection of stills from the cameras.

Color

S-Log3, S-Log2, S-Log3.Cine, S-Gamut, etc… Choosing settings for these cameras can easily become difficult to comprehend. One thing we were curious to see was whether there were differences between how the cameras handled skin tones, depending on what settings were chosen, and whether the extra two bits provided by the FS7’s 10-bit output offer a huge benefit compared to the 8-bit output of the a7 series.

It was quickly apparent that the FS7 held on to much more color, requiring a much smaller boost to contrast and saturation than either a7. This was especially true in the highlights and likely the main reason why highlight roll-off is much better looking than on either a7. Skin tones are always a notable concern and here, the 10-bit footage from the FS7 was very easy to work with to balance accurate-looking skin with a natural-looking environment. The a7S II’s S-Log3 was a very close second, creating a near-perfect match. The surprising change is S-Log2, which tended to have a magenta cast that was difficult to correct. It is possible but requires a bit more work than the newer S-Log3 gamma.



 


 


 

a7R II (S-Log2)

a7S II (S-Log3)

FS7 (S-Log3)

In the end, everything can be accounted for in post, with a bit of work. See the images below, as well as others throughout the article, and you will find that most differences are made negligible during the grading process.

Resolution

This test turned out to be a little bit of a surprise. The a7R II and FS7 both appeared to be about equal in sharpness, likely due to the oversampling provided by the higher-resolution sensors. We used the excellent Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 G Macro OSS lens at f/4 for this test and focused on some text in a book to provide the detail. In practice, adding contrast to the image or sharpening in post will nullify this advantage, but it was an interesting find, since we initially expected similar performance from all three cameras.



 


 


 
a7R II a7S II FS7

Rolling Shutter

Unsurprisingly, this revealed the difference between the cameras most easily, and shows what you get with a true video camera, compared to hybrid options. The FS7, with its larger body, processing, and dedicated video sensor design, result in much more manageable rolling shutter compared to the minuscule mirrorless cameras. It is still there, not as absent as one would hope, but well enough within average shooting parameters that most people will be able to avoid seeing the worst of it.



 


 


 
a7R II a7S II FS7

The a7 series, as we have demonstrated in the past, does have some pretty noticeable rolling shutter effect. It is one of the main bugs of these usually spectacular cameras. Of interest in our results was that the a7S turned out footage with slightly less rolling shutter effect than the a7R. It is almost unnoticeable, but the difference is there, all but cementing the a7S as a clear choice for more video-oriented a7 shooters. Our explanation for the difference: the pixel count of each camera. They have the same processors, so the a7R’s need to down-sample from a pixel count of 15MP in Super35 mode must lengthen the read speed. One fix is to use the full-frame mode, which offers improved rolling shutter performance due to line skipping, but the noticeable decrease in quality here is usually not worth it.

ISO

One of the few definitive wins for mirrorless, the ISO title belt easily goes to the a7S. Thanks to the large pixels on the full-frame sensor, the a7S offers a sensitivity that is simply unmatched with 4K resolutions. We would easily use this at up to 25600 ISO, though in a pinch 51200 could be very usable for you, though with a loss of detail.

Compared to its direct sibling, the a7R, we rated the difference at around two full stops, backing up differences in the sensors’ native ranges. The a7S may be king, but how well the a7R holds up in low light is quite impressive itself, due in large part to its back side illuminated sensor. Using the camera at up to ISO 12800 should be fine for many applications though, ideally, 6400 and lower offers much better performance and is the range in which you’d want to stay for most commercial and narrative work.

The FS7, it seems, falls short in this arena. Lacking the benefit of back-illuminated sensor technology or gigantic pixel size, as well as the camera’s own desire to stay at ISO 2000 in its Cine EI mode, present a huge disadvantage. When adjusting the ISO, we found our maximum at around 6400.

One thing to note is that sensitivity plays a huge role in practical dynamic range concerns. In our tests, the a7S was best able to handle underexposure, and the FS7 started to get noisy when pushed more than a stop. While the FS7 still performs admirably compared to many other professional camcorders, event and doc shooters who can't always guarantee having a light kit to back them up should consider the low-light benefits of the a7 series.

Another thing we noted was that S-Log3 turned in noisier shadows than S-Log2, which makes sense, given the gamma curve pushes up the shadows more. This can be mostly corrected in a grade but, should you find yourself constantly pushing shadows, you may want to use S-Log2 instead.

Body Design and Operation

Comparing the physical aspects of these cameras is more of a pros-and-cons activity if you are on the buying front, but we will start with a list of what we personally like, and don't like, when we pitted these cameras against each other.

The FS7 is a full-size video camera and, as such, has all of the buttons you could wish for, as well as a monitor, rosette handgrip, and a more natural shoulder-mounted shooting position. Also, the most critical difference for many will be native XLR jacks and a proper mic mount, enabling substantially better audio with dedicated controls and connections. Another big advantage are the built-in three ND filter stages, which facilitate shooting at the camera’s base ISO of 2000. The FS7’s body design is tried-and-true for good reason, and many video shooters will find it to be much quicker to use.

The a7s, on the other hand, offers supremely compact bodies with one notable advantage—in-body image stabilization, something that helps correct for the shake and jitters common to shooting handheld with the compact bodies Also, the cameras offer full-frame shooting (though the a7R II loses some quality in this mode), and that is to be commended. Besides this, the obvious upside/downside of these mirrorless cameras is the photo-oriented control scheme. For many, the familiarity will be appreciated if you are moving up from a DSLR or other low-end camera, but for video shooters, the lack of dedicated dials and buttons for many commonly needed settings will be extremely aggravating.

Another potential downside to the mirrorless cameras is that they require a lot of additional equipment to outfit them for shoulder-mounted shooting, including a rod support system, handgrips, shoulder mount, and a monitor/EVF. The poor battery life of the a7 series battery also can’t be ignored, so an external battery solution is a must-have for many applications. However, the camera’s ability to be used as-is in its compact form lets it go places that a larger camera like the FS7 simply can’t, and also means you may not need as heavy duty a tripod or slider for general use.

This will obviously come down to personal choice, but any comparison between the cameras has to include the basic pros and cons of each.

The Finale

So, what was the point of all these tests? Well, they showed us that in terms of pure image quality, the latest mirrorless cameras not only hold their own, but can occasionally best a professional video camera. However, there are many things provided by video cameras that demand the premium pricing and space requirements that you simply will never get with these hybrid models. Budget users wondering if they made the right choice can be happy to know that the a7 series will provide a stellar image, and high-end users will know why they needed the additional features of a full-size video camera.

In the end, while we may have proven differences between them, in practical usage it will be difficult to see these differences. So below, please find a video that incorporates footage from all three cameras. See if you can find the differences and, if you want take a guess about which camera was used for a particular shot, please do so in the Comments section, below.

Discussion 41

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Hey guys, thanks for the complete review. 

I just bought an FS7 and I'm looking for a second camera for interviews (to have a second angle). Don't have the budget for another FS7... The A7SII seems to be matching quite good in terms of images. Do you recommend that ? Or any other cameras ? Cheers. Jeremy

Hi Jeremy,

The a7S II is definitely a good option, especially if you just want something smaller to toss in your bag, but it need full-frame lenses to get 4K, so depending on what you have for the FS7 it may require a little more investment. If you could go up to the FS5 though that would probably be a much better match, though I know it is much more expensive. The a6500 could also be a good choice for much less, though it is prone to overheating, a good option if you have an external recorder for it.

Greetings.
Great read and observations. I'm interested in some advice. I currently shoot with a GH3.... yes the 3. I'm not even 4K yet. I know... I shoot a lot of interviews for a webshow, I do music videos and some narratives. I have an opportunity to get a FS7 from a friend with loads of accessories or should I go with the a7s2 or GH5 with some lenses. My thing is to really step up my production and I know either will do so. My aim is to do more commercial work a well as narratives. I have the webshow as well that we interview artists and the such. Your thoughts?

Thanks, in advance.

Hi Shawn,

You bring up an interesting dilemma here. If you are strictly a profesional videographer, the FS7 is going to be your best bet when it comes to reliability and controls, as much as the a7S II has caught in pure image quality (and surpasses it in low light), the design of the FS7 cannot be beat by a mirrorless camera. However, if you require a small kit or work constantly in dim light, the a7S II excels there. We haven't had any hands-on time with the GH5 yet, but personally I would only go that route if you want to keep going with the GH series or are personally invested in equipment for it. Having recently compared a GH4, a7S II and a7R II recently, I must say that while the 10-bit output of the GH series is nice, but I believe the larger sensor cameras have it beat in overall quality still with their output, as long as you know what you are doing and control your exposures. One alternative is a two camera setup, for example, you could pick up the FS7 and combine it with a relatively inexpensive a6500/6300 for certain shoots that require a B camera or where you just want to run with a light kit. You can even share lenses with this setup.

Thanks for the great test. I'm currently shooting on a Canon C300 with L series 17-40mm f4, 50mm f1.2, 35mm f1.4 and 70-200mm f2.8. I love throwing it on my Ronin M for great flowing shots, although its at the upper end of the payload scale for the gimbal. I'm looking at trading in my 5D Mark iii and crossing over to a Sony A7sii... the much smaller size really appeals, given I've already got the C300 when I can pull out all the gear. I'm thinking of also picking up a Came TV single 3 axis gimbal and throwing the A7sii on it with the 17-40mm on a metabones mount (or even the 35mm prime if it can handle the weight). I'm hoping this will create a real run and gun, single handed lightweight alternative to the Ronin M and C300 for when I need it... I do a lot of tourism shooting and often need to get that 'in the action POV' shot. I considered the 5D Mark IV, but the lighter A7sii really appeals as I can use the came tv gimbal... would you recommend this as a set up? Thanks for all the insight!

Hi Dylan,

I would highly recommend the a7S II. I owned the a7S before upgrading to the a7R II and it was one of the best stills/video cameras available right now, the a7S II is even better with internal 4K and S-Log3. Also, another huge advantage to the a7S II compared to pretty much any other camera on the market is its low light capabilities, so adding it as a second body would give you something new. One thing to note is that you won't have reliable or fast AF when adapting lenses, but since the 5D Mark III also wasn't too spectacular in this regard it doesn't sound like that will be an issue for you.

Now, depending on exactly what you need or want, the new 5D Mark IV does look promising for video. In Full HD it is full frame and should have improved noise performance compared to your Mark III, also, it has Dual Pixel AF so for gimbal work you might be able to trust the AF system to do the job for you. And, it does do 4K but with a 1.74x crop, which is a major downside compared to the full-frame 4K of the a7S II. But, reviews aren't yet out so I would advise that you wait for that to make a decision if you are at all leaning towards staying Canon.

Also forgot to ask, what affordable external battery solutions do you recommend (besides the ext. battery grip), as the NP-FW50 batteries lifespan is so, so short! :-) Thanks!

Hi Adam,

There are several external power solutions for a7 series cameras. I personally use the Switronix PowerBase 70, which will power the camera for several hours. It has a quick-release plate so you can mount the camera directly on top of the battery, though this can be a bit awkward for handheld shooting. I find it best suited to be mounted on the back of a rig, but the fact that you can mount it directly to a tripod with the camera on top makes it pretty versatile, and I do end up doing this quite a lot.

Other options include an indiPRO Tools Power Grid or Atomos Power Station to power the camera from DSLR or camcorder batteries, or a D-Tap adapter cable to provide power from any brick battery or battery plate that has a D-Tap/P-Tap power output. For a compact option, Varavon offers a 5,200mAh external battery and separately-available power coupler. The battery can be put into your pocket or creatively strapped to your rig or support solution.

I hope some of these solutions help!

This was an incredibly fantastic test! Thanks for sharing. The huge advantage of S-Log 2 in shadow noise was eye-opening, as was the usability of the A7SII at high ISOs. Are there any lenses for the A7SII that have autofocus but also a linear focus throw (allowing for repeatable follow focus moves)? Or are all E-mount lenses with autofocus the non-linear kind? Thank you!

~Adam

Hi Adam,

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. In terms of AF lenses, there are only two that have a traditional manual focus system (though it's still focus-by-wire it functions as if it were mechanical): the FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS and the FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro OSS. Both of these have a clearly marked focusing ring that will allow for repeatable follow focus moves. The 28-135mm in particular was designed for video, though moreso for the FS7 than the a7S II when it comes to size. Also, after talking to a Sony rep about the G Master series, these lenses supposedly have a more natural feeling manual focus, more in line with Canon EF lenses (no hard stops but still able to repeat movements). Hopefully future lenses or a firmware update can help with how these lenses focus, I too think that the current focus-by-wire system with variable speed is terrible for video. Hope this helps.

The focus-by-wire issue is worrying me, and causing me to hesitate on pulling the trigger on a travel package based on the A7s ii. I am filming a couple important events in the next 12 months (Australia and India). I will be bringing the Sony PXW-X70 for general purpose documentary work, and another system for low light and beauty shots (weight and simplicity are very important concerns).

I'm considering two different systems for the second camera (i will include the XLR adaptor with either system I chose): One based on the A7s ii, and the other based around the soon to be released GH5. I'm leaning toward the A7S ii system (Lenses: voigtlander 15mm f/4.6, Sony FE28mm f/2, Sony 55 f/1.8, and Samyang 135mm f.2 ).  If I go with the GH5, the lenses under consideration are: Panasonic 7-14 f/4, Voigtlander 17.5 f/0.95, and Panasonic 35-100 f/2.8 II.

The full frame A7s ii should give better low light and shallower DOF options. Also the Sony Clear zoom feature allows me to forgo zoom lenses and still get a lot of flexibility. I really wish it had decent autofocus though since I will be working mostly alone.

The PXW-X70 isn't written in stone (I already have one, and a set of Canon lenses and 5D3, but the Canon gear is not going with me) My total gear must be as light weight as possible, as simple as possible, and I need to be able to cover fast moving events, interviews, low light situations, and get some beauty shots.

Any advice or feedback? 

Hi Steve,

It looks like Sony listened to our focus-by-wire concerns with their latest lenses. The G Master series has focus-by-wire that is direct and doesn't do the ramping of the older lenses. Also, you could adapt your Canon lenses and get the manual focus performance you desire. Obviously not perfect, but it is nice to see the change. Otherwise you will have to stick with manual only glass.

im loving the sony a7sii imjust stuck on which zoom lens should be my first purchase?

Hi Christina -

It really depends on your personal style and what you are shooting. You may need to weigh factors like aperture and focal length.

Basic suggestions for first lenses:

Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Lens

Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Lens

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Hi Christina,

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of zoom lenses, but it doesn't mean I don't use them when necessary. If this is one of your first lens purchases, I would recommend one of the stellar primes in the system such as the 28mm f/2, 35mm f/2.8, or 55mm f/1.8 and just expand as needed over time. But, if you really want a zoom my personal favorite is the 16-35mm f/4. It gives you wide angles that no native prime from Sony can deliver with full AF and stabilization. For everyday shooting the FE 24-70mm f/4 is the best option for the price and size and the standard range (the upcoming G Master 24-70mm will provide much better image quality at a cost) though if you want one lens to fill all your needs the 24-240mm is the one to get. If you already have some primes in the wide-normal range, you can't go wrong with the 70-200mm. Telephoto zooms are where you will see huge advantages when it comes to sports. And finally, if you are really into video the FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 was designed specifically for video shooting. Follow that link for the 28-135mm and for all of the current Sony-brand full-frame E-mount lenses click right here.

Hey, great info!

A few questions, what would be the best settings in terms of picture profiles to use to match a7sii a7rii and fs5. Should slog3 be used on the a7sii and fs5, slog2 on the a7rii? Does the Color setting (s-gamut etc) need to be the exact same to make sure they match? There are so many options, just want to make sure I'm getting the most dynamic range from all three but matching it as close as possible.

Thanks for making these videos and answering these questions, it really helps.

There shouldn’t be any issues matching S-Log2 and S-Log3 in post.  The best option for dynamic range would be to use S-Log3 with the FS5 and a7S II and S-Log2 for the a7R II.  The color settings will need to be the same in order to match them up. 

Hi Matt,

If you are new to color grading, the best bet would be to match settings on all cameras as close as possible. In this case S-Log2 since the a7R II doesn't do S-Log3. However, with a little practice it should be no problem to match S-Log3 and S-Log2 footage. Both are fairly easy to work with. Ideally the color settings will be similar, as that has a large impact on color in the video (S-Gamut) is likely the best choice.

Just want to be clear. You were testing the S-Log3 and not the S-Log3.cine on the FS7 and A7Sii. Correct?

Thanks,

DJ

Hello DJ,

Correct, we stuck to S-Log3 with the standard S-Gamut for our tests, though for some of the compilation video at the end we did have the camera in S-Gamut.Cine. However, while these differences will affect the color of the image, it shouldn't affect many of the more technical aspects such as dynamic range and resolution.

The Sony A7 form camera is a great step forward for weekend photographers who shoot video. It's a also a convincing format for corporate or journalists who aspire to shoot video that may be projected in 2K or 4K. As a newspaper photographer, I shot a full-length documentary last year that I projected in 2K for an event at our local movie theater. I was using an older Canon XH A1-G1 and while the quality was pretty good, the Sony A7SII would have given me far better results. While I would have preferred shooting with the FS7, the boss would never spring for a camera that expensive.

I have experienced moire with the 7R, did you test for that?

Hi Aaron,

Are you referring to the original a7R or the a7R II? I personally haven't noticed much moiré at all when shooting in 4K Super 35/APS-C crop mode with the a7R II since the camera uses a full pixel readout and then downsamples to UHD. If you shoot in Full-Frame mode, then the camera uses line skipping and pixel binning and is much more likely to result in moiré. I imagine shooting in 1080p would be similar, be it on the a7R II or the a7R.

Which of the two 7RII or the 7SII would be best for Wildlife Photography. I have been a Hasslblad

photographer for more than 45 years. I'm now looking to move to your Alpha series. Thank you

Wildlife Photography / Michael L. Smith       

Hello Michael,

I would say the a7R II is going to be your best bet, it has faster autofocus and a significantly higher resolution. The a7S II would be beneficial if you always found yourself shooting at night since it has much better low light performance, but you would be sacrificing the R’s two clear advantages.

I feel a bit ignored with my A7II and my A6000 (backup) I just came back from a weeks shoot in Malawi, and am quite happy with the result. In general I've found that using the best lenses there is (Zeiss/Leica) means a lot.

I feel a bit ignored with my A7II and my A6000 (backup) I just came back from a weeks shoot in Malawi, and am quite happy with the result. In general I've found that using the best lenses there is (Zeiss/Leica) means a lot.

Hello Odd,

Sorry you feel that way. The a7II and a6000 are spectacular stills and video cameras, but unfortunately since this is a video-specific comparison we decided to stick with only the 4K-capable models of the a7S II and a7R II. Your second statement is very true though, most of the time quality depends on the lenses more than the camera itself.

I really can tell which one is which.   What I can tell is that it's better than any GH4 footage I've seen.

Hey Philippe,

Hope you enjoyed watching the footage. We would love to hear what some of your guesses are for which is which.

It's funny that the all new and exciting Sony PXW-FS5 wasn't even included in this article. Too bad Sony didn't spend more time enhancing it instead of crippling. 

Hello Robert,

Unfortunately we didn’t have one available to us when we began our tests as it was very recently announced. In the last sentence of the introduction we did address this concern of ours, though we would like to point out that considering the goal of the test (to see how well the pure video quality of this last batch of mirrorless cameras compares to a traditional cine camera) that putting the a7s up against a theoretically better camera is a better test.

This is still comparing apples and oranges. It makes no sense comparing these two cameras. The FS7 is a video camera. It is designed specifically for that purpose and doesn't shoot stills. The A7s family of cameras are mirrorless dslr, digital still cameras capable of shooting 4k video. These kinds of comparisons are what confuses buyers and provides poor practical inforamtion as to what the true intention of what the A7s primary function...shooting beautiul stills. There are very few practical instances where the A7s can be utilized in place of the FS7. On a professional level, this comparison only hampers the growth of the industry than benefits.

Hi Jeremy,

While I see your point that the FS7 is a dedicated video camera and the a7R II and A7S II are photo cameras first and foremost, we believe that there is plenty of merit to comparing them from a sheer image quality standpoint. Both the a7S II and a7R II can deliver some truly outstanding video, and putting them up against a camera like the FS7 shows just how good they are. While they are no replacement for what a true video camera in regards (form, connectivity, 10-bit recording, etc.), there is a definite place in the market for compact cameras that can produce high-quality, high-resolution, cinematic images. Applications include use as a 'B' camera to cameras like the FS7, or even as a primary camera for run-n-gun documentary work or low-budget films. Each tool has its place.

Let me be sure I understand - you are comparing a $3000 mirrorless stills/video camera weighing 1.3 lbs to a 9.9 lb $8000 specialized video camera? Perhaps we could next see a comparison between a Honda Accord and a Ferrari Enzo.

When one considers the fact that network TV is routinely using smartphone video, and even Burberry's shot its whole spring fashion show on iPhones, is is getting close to the time when we need to ask when "enough is enough"?

It's not just video. The vast majority of digital images are seen only on mobile screens, and the percentage of people making 24x36 or larger prints is shrinking - and yet we see a thirst for 42mp and higher sensors. Our sensors make near-noisefree images at ISO 6400 - and yet, we must have f2/f2.8 zooms like the 800 ASA film era?

This is GAS (gear aquisition syndrome) on steroids...

Hello Mel,

With the huge push by manufacturers lately to put high-end video specs in what are still-centric cameras we wanted to see just how well these mirrorless bodies held up in terms of pure image quality, to see if for video the image from the “hybrid-style” camera is as good as claimed, and how well that image compares to a true cinema camera. To use your Honda and Ferrari comparison, we were looking to test the claim that in terms of pure performance the Honda (mirrorless) is almost as good as the Ferrari (cine camera), though there are many other factors of course. One must not forget of course that body design and many other options/considerations that make a true cine camera a better option for dedicated video shooters.

Excellent analysis. Learned a lot. The A7SII is amazing. Small package, low light capability to the max and a form factor that works without question. If asked which system I would want, the FS7 or the 7SII, the latter wins hands down due to the LL capability of the system. Thanks again for the terrific post. 

Your analogy is foolish. In what way does an Accord outperform an Enzo? That was the whole point of this comparison. The low light performance of the A7SII is BETTER than the FS7, and the Sharpness of the A7RII is on par. The rest of your rant is irrelevant to the beginning, so I won't comment on that.

It gets better gas millage, can accommodate 4 packagers, way cheaper and more convenient to maintain and you can buy a car for each member of your family and still be way cheaper than the Enzo. Aside from that they have nothing in common.  But the FS7 is not a Ferrari Enzo; you’d have to move up to an Alexa 65 or a Panavision film camera to get into that league.  If you are looking for the best images that can be captured by a digital camera, short of an Alexa, I can see why all of these are thrown in to the mix.  If you are using the camera as an audio recorder than the FS7 is a no brainer.  If you use a dedicated audio recorder or shooting a music vid not so much.  All three AFAIK have the best sensors of any video cam out there right now short of an Alexa. Obviously the ergonomics of the FS7 is way better.  Unless you need to get into a tight space. But image wise they all have their points.  I would like confirmation that my assumptions about other sensors are correct.  The Canon’s and Panasonic’s and others do not have as good an image?  That’s what I’m hearing. For under 20,000 no others come close?  What about more expensive models of the FS7 line?

Hi Craig -

It is the writer's opinion that SONY is offering the best sensor:

"You bring up an interesting dilemma here. If you are strictly a proffesional videographer, the FS7 is going to be your best bet when it comes to reliability and controls, as much as the a7S II has caught in pure image quality (and surpasses it in low light), the design of the FS7 cannot be beat by a mirrorless camera. However, if you require a small kit or work constantly in dim light, the a7S II excels there. We haven't had any hands-on time with the GH5 yet, but personally I would only go that route if you want to keep going with the GH series or are personally invested in equipment for it. Having recently compared a GH4, a7S II and a7R II recently, I must say that while the 10-bit output of the GH series is nice, but I believe the larger sensor cameras have it beat in overall quality still with their output, as long as you know what you are doing and control your exposures. One alternative is a two camera setup, for example, you could pick up the FS7 and combine it with a relatively inexpensive a6500/6300 for certain shoots that require a B camera or where you just want to run with a light kit. You can even share lenses with this setup."

Hi Craig,

It is my opinion that other sensors are not necessarily better or worse, but different. Most of what is determined as image quality in these situations comes from image processing, color depth, and how editors and colorists handle the image. At the low end (mirrorless/DSLR) it is going to be really hard to beat the Sony cameras on a pure image quality basis. Once you move into the cine-camera world it gets a lot trickier to tell. Canon's C300 Mark II and C700 offer extremely competitive features and similar quality to the FS series. Panasonic's Varicam series also delivers excellent image quality. Even Blackmagic with the Ursa and other cameras is very very good. Obviously Alexa and RED are leaders at the top end, but as you point out that is fairly obvious.

This article was focused on Sony as we were comparing mirrorless to a true cinema-style camera, and left out comparisons between other brands to try and keep things as equal as possible. It's hard to say who between all these manufacturers is the "best" and in my opinion there are many other reasons to pick a camera beyond pure IQ, especially since these days almost everybody will give you a great image to work with. And, a lot of image quality is determined by format and settings, such as bit depth, color sampling, and compression. 

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