Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor


Having sold one of my two GH4’s I decided to buy a Sony A7s because I needed camera that would perform well in lower lighting conditions. The first thing I tested was the cameras colour compatibility with using the A7s beside my GH4.

Next was choosing a lens, I looked at all the options before plumbing for the 16-70mm f4 ZEISS T* a cracking all rounder though I was not prepared to discover that this lens using APSC crop would also increase the noise at higher ISOs.


There has been a fair bit of confusion over the lens I chose, firstly its not a “Full Frame” lens as there is no FF equivalent. When I had my Canon 5D I had a 24-105mm lens and it ticked a lot of my boxes therefore I chose the 16-70mm lens knowing it would give me a 1.5x crop, what I was not aware of is that 1.5x crop would also increase the noise, thanks to Chris for pointing this out but indeed when I film with a full frame Nikon lens on an MTF adapter the noise is less than using the Sony non FF lens. The ISO was set to 12800 and the croped Sony lens is indeed a tad noisier, interesting. Update. I have decided to return the 16-70mm APS-C to WEX who are kindly exchanging it for the 24-70mm Full Frame version, its not due in till the end of the month and I will re-evaluate the ISO when I get my new lens.

I also bought a 60mm f2.8 Sigma lens which gets terrific reviews and is also a very sharp lens. The last item I bought was the hand grip which allows you to use a second Lion “W” battery extending your total video battery life to about 4 hours.


The worst feature of the A7s is the video record button, not only is it in the wrong place but its your only option unlike the GH4 where the shutter release button doubles up as the video record button, lets hope Sony do something about this in the next FW upgrade.


To solve the problem I bought a Sony RM-VPR1 remote that works a dream with a nice big video record button off camera making the A7s a lot more pleasurable to work with in video mode.


How does the Sony A7s compare with the Panasonic GH4…I used them only last week on a major NHS job filming side by side using the A7s as a wide locked off shot and the GH4 for a medium close up. The GH4 has the YAGH and the A7s was relying on its inbuilt mic for sound syncing. This worked well on the timeline but you have to remember to crank up the A7s to make sure you get enough volume to sync the two cameras together.


I have as I write ordered the £500 Sony XLR-K2M adapter kit, this fits onto the top of the A7s unlike the first Sony carbuncle that sits on a bracket.

Back to the colour compatibility…you can get them fairly close but FCPX nails the slight incompatibility with a great feature called “Match Color” and the XAVC-S file loads into FCPX a dream, this confused me at first when I tried to import XAVC LongGOP (PXW-X70).

There is a lot of nonsense being banded about the net as to the A7s ability to see in the dark…well it can but at the cost of noise…I find you can run the ISO up to 8000 happily before it starts to get noisy (APSC Sony lens) with a Full Frame lens (Sony only have 3 full frame E mount lenses to date) you should expect the ISO to climb to 12800 before noticeable noise kicks in. Videos on the internet hide a lot of noise wether its the compression used to convert the video who knows but I prefer to use my monitor in my edit suite and my trusty JVC reference monitor.

Here is a job we did recently, its still in its editing stage but gives you a look at the Sony A7s performing at ISO 8000



Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

16 thoughts on “Sony A7s User Review and the 16-70mm lens confusion. (Update on lens)

  1. Nice piece. Looks very good. I assume you did the small rack focus without any add ons? Any lighting, or all available light?

    HDW : The old fashioned rack focus with no add ons…and no additional lighting…superb low light camera.

  2. I remember I said to you to get a7s but you were stuck on getting GH4s. You dis it regarding rolling shutter.
    I’ve got some advise for you- you should have waited as Sony are bringing out a new version of the a7s with no rolling shutter!
    The first lens you bought is that not a full frame lens? Why are you converting to full frame equivalent? A7s has full frame sensor.

    HDW : Yes Alen hindsight is a wonderful tool…I don’t use the A7s for major sports events so the rolling shutter should not be a problem plus I needed a low light camera 2 weeks ago so what choice did I have. As you point out the sensor is full frame but the lens is not a FF lens so its got a crop factor of 1.5x

  3. “Next was choosing a lens, I looked at all the options before plumbing for the 16-70mm f4 ZEISS T* a cracking all rounder with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 24-105mm.”
    The A7s is a fullframe camera, so a 16-70mm lens has a “35mm equivalent focal length” of the same 16-70mm, not 24-105mm. The crop factor in this case is 1.

    HDW : Bernd you are wrong the lens is not a full frame lens so it does have a crop factor of 1.5x

  4. I am confused as to the lens as the lens seems to be an APS-C mount lens, meaning that its 35mm equivalent would be 24-105mm.

    I couldn’t find a SONY FE lens (full frame for e-mount) in their line up that matched the focal length noted.

    HDW : OK confusion is the correct word…this lens is not a full frame lens so you are correct as I was it has a crop factor of 1.5 in FF35mm terms its 24-105mm.

  5. Like any camera, the A7s will show more and more noise as you climb up the ISO ladder. However, what IS amazing is that the A7s will still hold its detail in the higher ISOs.

    The detail available in those high ISOs is what makes it stand out so tremendously in the crowd…

  6. You mentioned 8000 ISO being your perceived acceptable limit. Isn’t shooting in APS-C mode having an adverse effect on light sensitivity/sensor output performance?

    HDW : You seem to be right.

  7. There’s a pretty steep learning curve with the A7S for both still & motion, it can be quirky until you get a feel for it. Here’s something shot handheld at just shy of half a million ISO. The new shoe mounted XLR adaptor is a thing of simplistic beauty too, I’m sure you will enjoy it for run & gun work.

  8. You’ve lost me on the lens / crop factor thing.

    16mm is 16mm on any camera…the ‘crop factor’ is a result of a smaller sensor only seeing the central portion of the lens.

    A 24-105 on APSC would kick off at 1.6x those values.

    Are you saying that the Sony lens you have is designed for smaller sensors and doesn’t cover the whole sensor of the A7s?

    Does the A7s have an APSC mode to accommodate these lenses?

    I’ll get my coat on the way out….

    HDW : Yes the A7s has a switchable menu condition for using APSC lenses. It works fine apart from the ISO. At 12800 ISO the full frame sensor is less noisy using a Nikon FF lens/adapter than using the APSC Sony lens.

  9. Hi Hdw

    I’m still using The 5dm2 and are using it for my art practis. I’m really tempted to upgrade but live in a place in Sweden where I can’t try any of the cameras out (Gh4 and A7s).
    My question. Do you think it would be a major step up to buy any of this cameras and which one out of the two will be in your bag most likely in the future. It’s a bit confusing as the gh4 most of the time seems to come out on top on reviews but are not used as much afterwards in the revivers post as a A or B camera.
    Your thought would be great!
    Many thanks tobias

    HDW : Hi Tobias, Mirrorless is the future of filming with a DSLR so to upgrade would be a major step forward, Canon and Nikon are so behind in this technology its laughable. 3 months ago I would have told you the GH4 and if 4K is a necessity without an external recorder the GH4 is your camera plus its a better photographic tool but since working with both cameras and latterly the Sony A7s, you can now get the XLR-2KM adapter that sits on top of the A7s (£500) so its become far more appealing. The GH4 with XLRs will cost you a further £1500 for the YAGH.
    The low light full frame sensor is a cracking feature and in HD mode the XAVC-S codec is very good.
    All depends on what you are using the camera for both have their strengths but the GH4 will only go up to around 3200 ISO whilst the Sony A7s can go up to 12800 ISO and beyond without significant noise.
    I am looking to get a PXW-FS7 soon so it will be a no brainor to stick with the A7s.

  10. Blimey Philip you change cameras systems more often than I change my undies!

    It’s worth throwing another camera into the mix. The £650 Sony a6000. I’ve started using it as a second camera to my FS100.

    It has Zebras, focus peaking a lovely OLED viewfinder and clean HDMI out.

    Have a look at the side by side tests against the 5DMk111. The a6000 is noticeably better.
    It’s cracking little stills camera too.

    I’m using a £20 plug in power adaptor with Sony NP batteries as the internal batteries will only run for maybe an hour.

    I only bought it as a family camera because the full size DSLRs are such a pain to drag around. I think I need another one just for work.

    Now I’m waiting for the first proper reviews on Sony’s 28-135 mm F4 G OSS full frame lens, should be a great tool for E-Mount video work. I’m hoping the zoom speed can be properly controlled on any camera, the ability to crash zoom would be great too!

    HDW : I think the 28-135 Full Frame lens will be more suited to the PXW-FS7, like most of these lenses you get a zoom control on the lens itself.

  11. So the RM-VPR1 really does work with the A7s?? Sony’s own compatibility charts do not include the 7s. Have you tried controlling Sony zooms with it?

  12. Hello, reading the comments I saw that a friend of yours said something about a new version of the a7s. Do you have any informations about this? Is he a reliable friend? Your review was helpful, I was on point to grab a 16 70, but the increased noise due to the crop sensor mode on drove me to grab a 24 70 FE (which is sadly bigger, heavier, and not performing as well as the 16 70 but…) I guess this is how you make choice.

    HDW : People speculate all the time that chap was guessing…Sony surprisingly did bring out the A7Mk11 but a new A7s who knows.

  13. The video record button on the Sony A7S is too small, awkwardly placed and slightly recessed. This makes it very difficult to activate without much searching and fumbling around. This is why we created the Cineasy Touch Button enhancement.
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  14. Very interesting blog. I have been shooting part time with an a7S and it has taken me a while to get up to speed. But now that I am, I rarely pick up the 5DM2. Love the Metabones adaptor and use my Canon and Zeiss lenses plus the Sony 24-70 full frame e mount. Wow. Been trying out the Sony FS7. Not as comfortable or balanced on the shoulder as hoped. Just purchased an add on seen at the Cine Gear Expo. Not sure yet which camera will be the one.

  15. Was the high picture noise you encountered using S-Log2? I find that shooting on picture profile 4 yeilds a much better result in low light. This because you often don’t need the high dynamic range that S-log gives you and you are better shooting with 5 or 6 stops to target the picture contrast areas you are interested in.

  16. Or apply a LUT to your S-Log rushes to crush the black areas of the picture and “disappear” the noise.

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