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Sony A7s: First Narrative Film Shot Exclusively By the Light of the Moon at ISO 51,200

By Hanssie on June 24th 2015

Time and time again, the Sony A7s has demonstrated its superb low light capabilities with numerous ISO tests and footage shot in complete darkness. Notably last year, in a short film titled, “Moonlight,” Carbon Studios produced a short film lit solely by moonlight at 12,800 ISO.


That short film inspired director Sam Shepson to push the A7s to its farthest limits – 51,200 ISO – for the first ever narrative short film lit exclusively by the light of the moon. He and his team wrote a story that would set the scene for “a visceral, otherworldly experience that I believe made the most of the technology.” After numerous tests, where they pushed the A7s as far as they could and tracking the moon and weather for months, they set out with large bounce cards and the moon as their only light source. Shepson tells Sony Alpha Rumors,

Miraculously, my team and I managed to get everything we needed while avoiding any light from astronomical twilight, city spill, or our flashlights — which we generally discouraged using to keep our eyes dilated. It was seriously an incredibly thrilling experience that I’ll never forget.

Titled, “Refuge,” the Sci-fi thriller was shot over two nights in the Angeles National Forest. Using a Sony A7s with an Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder, some Canon Cinema Primes and Metabones Speedbooster, this 6-minute video really shows off the camera abilities.

Watch “REFUGE // A Moonlit Short Film”

REFUGE // A Moonlit Short Film from Sam Shapson on Vimeo.

You can find more of Sam Shepson’s work here:

[Via DIY Photography]


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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Dave Haynie

    Nice film… suffering a bit technically. I mean, sure, that’s an accomplishment to actually shoot by moonlight. But the grain and some other weirdness (noise reduction) is pretty strong. It does help suggest “other” in a small way, and at the same time looks far more real than the old “day for night” shooting. But some clever lighting could have got some of this down with a better ISO option. Except the stars, but that could have been added, and … ok, lots of work. And it’ll probably look even better on the A7SII :-)

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  2. Peter McWade

    Pretty violent. Grainy, Unfocused, and not so sharp. Yeah! I know its the limits of low light. I hope no one produces a full length show at this iso level. Not terrible impressed. Just my initial reaction and evaluation.

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  3. Kristopher Galuska

    And this really proves there is no excuse to not make your film (technology wise atleast). You could light en entire film with nothing but cheap LED lights and candles if you want, and it would still look better and have less noise then the best of digital 5 years ago.

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  4. Kristopher Galuska

    You can see the stars. It is a small thing, but It adds a lot. I go out into the dessert at night often, and this really does capture what it looks like with only moonlight.

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  5. Paul Empson

    reminds me a little of the old westerns shot in daylight with blue filters…

    nice to know it can be done…

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  6. Tom Johnson

    Interesting concept.

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  7. Justin Haugen

    Well acted! I can’t say the footage looks all that great, but it doesn’t look that bad either. It looks muddled. Impressive, curious to see where we’ll be in 5 years.

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