King of the Night — Sony and the Holy A7S Marketing Grail

Hard to miss the Sony A7S doxology currently running rampant in websites and online fora. The camera that can see in the dark. All of a sudden 12MP are king. I’ve been saying all along that less is more and that too many megapixels are more of a burden than a blessing. Now everybody seems to love the contrarian camera — contrarian because who would have thought not too long ago that a dozen million megapixels is enough? That Sony’s tempting even diehard brand loyalists to fancy a detour into Sony land? The Sony A7S turns out to be a mind-boggling concept becoming reality, turning the night into day. Whoever takes photography serious cannot look the other way.

Pixel size is important after all, but in today’s world, is it still what it’s all about? The low light supremacy comes at the cost of a full stop of dynamic range and some color depth performance, as Luminous Landscape reports. Author Michael Reichmann though suggests, despite the comparatively low pixel count, that the image quality he’s getting from the A7S is capable of going toe-to-toe with medium format cameras…

The DxOMark overall score my trusted Df still beats the Sony, but that’s like comparing apples and oranges. They’re completely different beasts.

King of the dark -- turning the night into day: Sony A7S, photography world's new undisputed low light emperor.
King of the dark — turning the night into day: Sony A7S, photography world’s new undisputed low light emperor.

Sacrifice resolution and base performance, and you get a hell of night person’s camera. Here’s a quick roundup of how groundbreaking the compact full-framer is:

  • Undisputed new low light champion delivering unmatched high sensitivity and low noise with an ISO range expandable to 409,600;
  • First camera to deliver UHD (4K) video from the full width of the sensor without pixel binning, albeit limited to HDMI (and to realize the headlining 4K capability you’ll need a costly external unit);
  • Full electronic shutter option, meaning absolutely quite shutter mode with completely inaudible shutter actuation (as the Panasonic GX7), which makes it a great camera for concert, theater, courtroom, meditation and whatever photography — no beep, no shutter, no nothing, one of the beauties of mirrorless;
  • Smaller sensor (with fatter pixels) = smaller files;
  • Ultimate camera for legacy and manual lenses due to wide range of adapters available and balanced proportions between body and lenses.

I for myself still like the beauty and clarity and crispness of an optical viewfinder and a mechanical shutter’s sexy “clack” sound. With the A7S Sony’s clearly narrowing the gap between established DSLR and mirrorless performance. To each his or her own.

As a street and travel photographer who wants to go light mirrorless is a no-brainer. According to Moore’s law and the innovation drive lead by Sony we’re approaching crunch time.

Just beware of the difference between innovation and marketing. The former makes your life better and easier, the latter your camera manufacturer’s life. Clean high a.k.a. auto ISO is one of the biggest achievements of modern cameras. Sometimes though I just don’t want to see in the dark. That’s the beauty of the night.

+++ You can order the Sony A7S from Amazon, Sony Store, B&H Photo, Adorama and DigitalRev.

  • I often shoots in theaters at concerts, and this camera looks like the “perfect” tool for that job. Still I don’t trust Sony when talking about ILCameras.

  • Wade Marks

    Wow…I just saw some sample pics on Steve Huff’s site and this camera really intrigues me now.

    I just wish one could get 4K video internally, without the external unit.