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Quick Look Sony A7Sii

By Mike Steidley

This article was originally published in August/September 2016 issue.

Let’s have a look at the newest small form factor camera from Sony that gives drone users some distinct filming advantages to work with. The Sony A7Sii follows the Sony A7S, which made headlines for its prominent ability to shoot in low light. The Sony A7S did this by offering clean ISO options that could almost see in the dark. The camera had a few drawbacks for filmmakers, however, mainly the fact that the camera could only record 4k video using the HDMI output and then running the signal into an external recorder such as an Atomos monitor. The camera had a few other options that made the GH4 a heavy hitter for aerial work for its size and form factor. The A7S, however, could shoot at dusk and at night and produce gorgeous 1080HD imagery. DJI made a special Zenmuse gimbal that pairs perfectly with the S900 and S1000 Spreading Wings drones and this gave filmmakers the chance to fly this camera.

FEATURES
•12.2MP Full-Frame Exmor CMOS Sensor
•BIONZ X Image Processor
•Internal UHD 4K30 & 1080p120 Recording
•S-Log3 Gamma and Display Assist Function
•5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
•0.5” 2.36m-Dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF
•3.0” 1,228,800-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor
•Up to 5 fps Shooting and ISO 409600
•Fast Intelligent AF, 169 AF Points
•Built-In Wi-Fi with NFC

THE NEW BIG BROTHER

The Sony A7Sii came along with the monumental news that it can now record 4k directly to the internal memory card and the exterior dimensions would remain the same, making it plug and play with DJI Zenmuse  gimbals. The camera also came with several tweaks that improved the film use aspect as well. For starters, Sony introduced Slog3 to give cinematographers a more substantial version of their LOG profile color space to capture a more dynamic range. Paired with 4k video in both 24 and 30 frames per second, Slog3 produces a strong image that can be pushed further in color grading. 1080HD also sees improve- ments with a 120 frames per second upgrade for nice slow motion. The camera does this by cropping in on the sensor although the image can get a bit soft, but this seems to work for slow motion shots. Focus peaking and focus magnification have been improved and the ability to remap the buttons makes selecting and customizing how the camera performs in your hands a breeze. One strange thing is the shutter button still can’t be used to start and stop recording. While you can upgrade the tiny record button to a larger one, several companies have made add-on buttons to make pushing the tiny record button a snap. The camera now has a very serious internal steady shot mode. We tested this out with some native Sony lenses and it works phenomenally. Want to step it up and shoot with a cine lens or old vintage glass? No problem, just select your focal length then the camera figures out the rest and adds in image stabilization which makes handheld shooting on these types of lenses easily possible.

STILL THE KING OF LOW LIGHT
The Sony A7Sii still boasts the same performance in low light as the original. Sony pulls this off by adjusting the number of pixels on the 4k sensor to make it extra sensitive to low light. You can shoot a campfire scene with just the fire as the key light … it is that clean. At 10,000 ISO nothing is needed in post for noise reduction and 25,000 ISO rarely needs it. If you are willing to deal with a touch more noise or cleaning in post, you can really crank this thing up. Another great option is using this camera on a Freefly Movi or DJI Ronin. You can shoot at a higher F-stop if needed which lessens the need to worry about critical focus. This works well for keeping the camera setup on the gimbal simplified or if you are swapping between aerial and ground setups. We’ve used this camera on a DJI Ronin to capture some juggling action where the performer was lighting his props on fire and the camera worked amazingly well when paired with the DJI Ronin for this shoot.

FLYING THE SONY A7SII
DJI makes a Zenmuse gimbal specific for the camera and it calls for use of the Sony FE 35mm F2.8. This lens offers a slightly tighter feel then other lens options specced in the Zenmuse series, so you get a narrower field of view when flying this camera. You will need to gain a bit of altitude to frame a really wide shots, but the flipside is getting nice tight shots. If using this camera at night you might like the options that the 35mm lens gives. The F2.8 lens also gives great low light shooting and at dusk you can shoot for a higher F-stop and turn up the ISO to have a larger hyper focal length which makes your aerial work more comprehensive in regards to nailing focus.

The image out of the Sony A7Sii is simply amazing and the full frame 35mm format is well executed in this small form factor camera. You have the ability to personalize many of the color profiles and it comes with nine options that can all be customized for different shooting environments. The vast shooting modes and options make this camera perfect for cinematographers looking to shoot in low light or for a regular production camera. The Sony A7Sii retails for $2,999.  For any additional information visit the Sony website..

LINKS
MIKE STEIDLEY mikested.com
SONY sony.com
VISION AERIAL MEDIA visionaerialmedia.com

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