2020 is perhaps bringing the most change to cameras as far as video goes, that we have ever seen. 8K, RAW, incredibly high bit-rates…Pretty much everything mirrorless cameras always lacked that cinema cameras had, is coming. And that brings the question of whether the Sony A7 III is still worth it for video…
Can the A7 III make it for documentaries in this decade? In this review, we are going over low-light shooting, interview shooting, B-roll shooting, slow-mo, and everything you might need for video.
Low-Light Shooting With the Sony A7 III
Some of the greatest video footage is shot in situations with lower light.
That’s why when considering whether the Sony A7 III is still worth it for video, that’s the first thing to look at.
And we’ll let video do what it does best, and let it show you.
Car scenes are super common in documentaries, and watching this clip you will see just how well the Sony A7 III handles these low light situations.
The first clip is slightly more dramatic, shot at the back of the bus, meanwhile, the second clip, consists of more light and is shot on the basic lens that Sony include with the Sony A7 III, shot at the widest setting of 28mm at f/3,5.
Here’s a very low light scenario in a city.
⬆️⬆️⬆️This is a super low-light scenario where we barely can see ourselves, due to the poor lighting situation in some parts of Napoli, Italy. The clip is much softer, but at the same time, allows us to see slightly better than with our own eyes, and showcases the camera’s possibilities as far as low-light shooting, something that can come crucial if you intend to shoot documentaries.
This, on the other hand, is an almost similar clip, with more light, and with some light adjustments.
Sony A7 III for Interviews
You can capture some incredibly crispy interviews with the A7 III, but the camera itself isn’t ideal in situations where you are both taking care of the recording and interviewing at the same time.
Primarily because of two limitations.
The 30-minute recording limit and the lack of a fully rotating screen.
When it comes to the recording limit, it’s super easy to forget about the time limit when interviewing, especially if the conversation is going great.
…It happened to us where we ended up missing some footage because time flew by and we forgot about the limit.
This is something the a6400 doesn’t have, and we just can’t imagine Sony keeping this limit on any future cameras.
Relating to the fully rotating screen, this is something that most Sony cameras miss, and while you can get yourself an extra screen that you attach to the camera, in cases where you have to be super portable, having a fully rotatable screen would come in super useful.
If someone is taking care of the recording aspect, you will without a doubt get some world-class footage with this camera, especially if shooting with the right lens, and in the most optimal conditions, but if shooting alone, those aspects make it harder.
Is the Sony AT III Worth it For Videos as Far as Slow-Mo
A lot of people overuse slow-mo, often forgetting the power of actually showing a moment and capturing sounds, but with that said, slow motion is a crucial part of videos.
Not only does it help capture incredible sporting moments in an incredible way, but also every filmmaker will face a situation in which the only watch to capture great footage is by using slow-motion as otherwise, the clip will be too shakey and not usable in a convincing way.
If you plan to shoot in HD, whether that’s for Facebook or Instagram, the Sony a7 III is an excellent choice and worth it for video, but we are slowly hitting the mark where HD is what 720p once used to be.
…Meaning that if you want to make a documentary for Netflix, Netflix doesn’t like 1080p anymore, and with most people having 4K screens at this point, 1080p just isn’t enough as while 1080p can look much better in a higher bit rate (more on that later), when slow-mo from the a7 III is displayed on a 4K screen, it just doesn’t look that convincing.
And the Sony a7 III, nevermind 120 FPS, it can’t even shoot 60 FPS in 4K, and that’s a huge downfall.
That’s why 2020 is a special year for cameras though. 120 FPS in 4K is coming on Sony’s next model, with that being the Sony A7S III which is meant to be announced at the end of this month.
Sony’s FS7 camera can shoot 4K 60 FPS, and it is a great camera which we are reviewing soon, but it’s too big to bring everywhere with comfort, especially when filming documentaries where having an FS7 is a danger as far as safety.
Relating to slow motion though, The quality issue doesn’t show as much on 4K projectors like the BENQ TK850 which we are planning to review soon, but is super clear on most 4K monitors when playing in full-screen.
B-rolls are a fundamental part of documentaries, reviews, interviews, and pretty much any form of video out there.
The Sony A7 III makes it easy to shoot great b-rolls, even on more budget-friendly lenses, with the lens the above videos were shot on costing under €/$300.
That has a lot to do with Sony’s incredible autofocus system that allows to capture great-looking videos, with much more ease.
And well, the videos are very crisp, and of course, the slow-motion does help drastically, especially since the 5-axis stabilization on this camera, often struggles to do a great job.
But the forever complicated menus, lack of 4K slow-mo even at 60 frames, and worst of all, low bit rate, don’t make it an ideal camera for high-end productions, going into this new decade.
If there was a bit rate option of shooting at 400 MBps or more, that would not be the case, but with a super low limit of 100, and no RAW shooting options, this is a camera that lacks a lot of features that 2020 cameras now deliver.
Lenses Matter More Than the Camera
A common issue made? People rocking a 16 or 24 mm lens and expecting things to look “cinematic.”
Whether you have the A7 III or a to be soon released a7S III, if you don’t have the right lens for the results you seek, you won’t get the results you seek.
The best way to demonstrate this is by showcasing this example of a set of pictures taken at different focal lengths. The wider the view, the less “cinematic” the footage looks, yet, at the same time, most people do go for wide lenses.
That’s something to consider.
Our recommendation for the best video? The Sony Zeiss 55mm F/1,8
One thing to consider if you never tried Sony cameras before, or just getting started with videos is the lenses.
You need to research whether the lenses you will benefit the most from are available widely on the camera you plan to use, as once you get started with one company, it’s very hard to switch to someone else.
Sony A7 III? While boosting many more native options than the APS-C section of Sony cameras, if you plan to do a telephoto kind of shooting, you need to research beforehand. That’s because both Tamron and Sigma don’t offer an E-Mount option of some of their best telephoto lenses, meanwhile, an adapter with electronics costs over $500/€500.
…Sure, Sony does have some great telephoto lenses, but if you are somewhat on a budget, those options are pretty limited.
Battery Life & Overheating
One thing that has not yet been talked about much with the newly released Canon EOS R5 is the battery life when shooting in 8K and the potential overheating which is going to be discussed much more as the camera gets reviewed.
…And for a simple reason.
There’s only so much you can fit into a product.
Apple learned it the hard way in the past.
And the same applies to cameras whether it’s Sony or Canon.
Battery life wise, the A7 III easily provides over one hour of continuous shooting in 4K (with a break to press the record button again), but if not continuously shooting, you can easily get a full day of battery life for your projects.
And that’s great as the Sony A7 III batteries aren’t cheap.
Overheating wise, when shooting 4K it does happen.
You can expect overheating issues after around 30 minutes of recording, depending on your environment. If you are shooting inside, and it’s warm, 24 minutes, and you might need to take a break.
Is The Sony A7 III Still Worth it for Video?
If you are looking for a great camera for photo and video, and don’t need 4K, sure.
…But while most reviewers will tell you that they don’t use 4K and don’t need it, it’s becoming more clear than ever, that the time to shoot in 4K is now.
So while it’s fine for your Facebook videos or Instagram videos, if you are looking to shoot documentaries or even short films, and are able to do it perfectly with the A7 III, you might want to wait a little bit because otherwise, you mind find yourself quite limited when your project gets rejected for too low bit rate.
But also remember, you can shoot some terrible looking video with this camera, and with cameras that cost much more than this.
That’s because things like lighting, sound, lenses, angles, ultimately make more difference in the overall context of a video.
Once you master all of those, that’s when the extra features help.
And speaking of sound, the Sennheiser MKE 440 is one to look at when it comes to sound. It’s able to shoot some incredible sounding audio. *We know have made a review of it.*
But even with that, sure the FS7 might be behind the likes of Canon EOS R5, but the FS7 will work longer, battery wise and heat-wise. It will be more stable, make you look more professional, and perhaps even more importantly, will offer you the likes of multi-audio inputs.