Sony “A7S III” Finally On The Way! But What Should We Expect?
After literally years of waiting, speculation, and wishful thinking, it appears that we are indeed going to see (sooner than later) a successor to the legendary Sony A7S and A7S II. In an interview with DPReview, Sony’s Kenji Tanaka has at least confirmed that the camera so many have been waiting for is finally on the way.
We don’t have an exact date yet, nor do we have exact specifications or features, just a few hints and a discussion of what people have been expecting. So, what might we be “guaranteed” to see? Also, even more exciting, what surprises might we see? Is Sony keeping an ace up their sleeve? Let’s speculate!
Leave a comment below if you have any predictions or expectations of your own…
Sony A7S III Specifications (Predictions)
The current A7S II became a legendary camera among videographers, as one of the earliest to offer internal 4K video recording. Its predecessor, the original A7S, also put these cameras’ 12-megapixel sensor on the map as one of the best low-light, high-ISO sensors ever made. In fact, to date, despite the A7S being over 6 years old, it’s still one of the best low-light sensors on the market.
It is therefore guaranteed that, if Sony’s new camera has an “S” in its name, it will be an absolutely incredible performer in low light. But, what else might it offer? The S-series cameras is also a video-oriented camera, and that is where the real excitement lies.
First, let’s talk about its general photography capabilities…
Sony A7S III Photographic Capabilities
What resolution would an A7S II successor have? Most likely, either 12 megapixels (again) since that’s perfect for 4K video, or maybe up to 24 megapixels, since sensors have improved quite a bit over the years.
If Sony is still sticking with 12 megapixels, six years after the original A7S and almost a decade-and-a-half after the first 12-megapixel full-frame sensor, (Canon 5D, 2005) then, let’s be honest- it would probably be a camera that few photographers (that is, stills-only shooters) take interest in.
Sure, it might be incredible for low-light, astro-landscape, and deep-sky astrophotography, absolutely! But, considering how capable (and affordable) the A7 III already is, and how impressively good both it and the Sony A9 series are in low light, it’s hard to see why either casual or professional photographers would want an “A7S III” with only 12 megapixels, no matter how good the sensor is. So, maybe Sony will do up to 24 megapixels, who knows? (NOTE: We do not have any insider information at this point! If we did, we would not be publishing this article.)
Other photography features this camera will undoubtedly have are, an incredibly good autofocus system, (something like the A7R IV?) Lastly, it might be a safe bet to expect the body itself to be similar to the A7R IV.
But, what if Sony does want to go higher than 4K in the sensor’s resolution, for video reasons, not just photography? Next, let’s talk about possible video specs…
Sony A7S III Video Specs / Capabilities
What if Sony wants to surprise us with video specs that go to 6K, or 8K? That would mean ~24 megapixels or ~42 megapixels, respectively. Not only would a minimum of 24 megapixels make the camera a lot more attractive to photographers, but videographers would be particularly ecstatic with 6K video.
8K video seems entirely unlikely, though, because the Sony interview specifically did mention one thing- really big pixels. That means 42 megapixels is definitely out of the question, and even the number 24 is stretching the definition of “large pixels”. (24 MP equals a 5.93-micron pixel pitch, compared to the 8.4-micron pixel pitch of a 12-megapixel sensor.)
[Related: Sony A7R IV Review: More Megapixels, Better Autofocus, And That’s About It?]
If 8K video is off the table, and 6K is unlikely, though possible, what else could Sony offer to truly impress and attract serious videographers? Would the successor to the A7S II seem late to the game, if it were “only” 4K?
Personally, I’m not as excited by the idea of 6K, let alone 8K. The content world is not ready for those resolutions. I think there’s still plenty of life left in 4K, as long as the rest of the specs are impressive. What would I like to see, personally? A huge shocking surprise: go for broke, Sony, and let’s see 4K DNG raw video like the Sigma FP!
Of course, if that’s out of the question too, (due to the heat dissipation issues, or just the crazy buffer/throughput that 4K RAW requires) …then I think most videographers will settle for “regular” 4K, as long as it’s at 60p and 10-bit.
Such specs alone wouldn’t be too unprecedented at this point; we’re already seeing those specs from the Canon 1DX III, the Fuji X-T4, and oh, the Canon EOS R5 is going to have 4K 120p and 10-bit H.265 video, in addition to 8K RAW video!
However, if the new Sony camera can provide 4K video with extremely high overall image quality, (sharp detail, low noise, great high ISO quality…) then it would still be a very attractive camera, indeed. Or, they could just do 4K 120p, and that would rock the boat too!
Either way, aside from resolution and framerates and compression, one HUGE advantage for video that Sony has already demonstrated in the A7R IV is, of course, the impressive autofocus performance. Sony could deliver “just” 4K 60p 10-bit video, and if its video autofocus as good as or better than the A7R IV, then it will be a wildly popular camera among videographers.
Sony A7S III, or Sony A9S?
One other question that most people aren’t asking is, what will be the actual “class”, or form factor of this new camera? According to Sony, it’s going to be completely re-designed, all the way down to the sensor, and so far, we’ve only talked about the sensor!
But, what if Sony is deciding to take things to an even higher level, and make an “A9S”? It would mean just a few cosmetic changes compared to using the A7R IV body, but it could also squarely place the camera in a flagship realm, and make it a new contender for other things like action sports. This would be to Sony’s advantage if they’re hoping to charge ~$3500 for a 12-to-24 megapixel camera.
[Related: Why The Sony A9 Is The Wedding Camera Of The Decade]
Alternately, what if Sony is going to go the exact opposite route, the direction of the Sigma FP and other “rig” oriented video cameras? That would be an equally interesting camera, if not even more exciting for “hardcore” videographers. Shrink the body, but include every type of port that a serious video shooter could want, and you’ve got a very interesting camera.
The only thing that is making me suspect this won’t be the case is, I think it would be “too much” to take the EVF off such a camera, and I think Sony will want to make the camera attractive to as many different types of video shooters as possible, not just an elite niche of serious pros.
Personally, I think we’re going to see an “A7S III”, in the body of an A7R IV, but I could be wrong, and I’d be totally happy no matter what Sony has come up with!
Is Sony Late To The Party, Or Still Ahead Of The Competition?
So, we find ourselves asking, is this video-centric camera long overdue? Everybody will say, “it’s about time!” when this new camera is announced, that’s for sure. But, will it be late to the game?
Not really, because here’s the truth about the A7S series: It was way AHEAD of the competition when it came out. So, despite such long wait, an A7S III is at least on schedule, and likely to be another leap ahead of most of the competition.
Having said that, the category of cameras that are really good at both photography and video is growing, and Sony hasn’t been on top of some of the specs that are now being expected. A few other cameras are up to 4K 60p already, so Sony will have to do at least that, if not 120p, to stay “way ahead”. The same things could be said about compression/bit-rate, too.
One thing is for sure, though. Sony has a tendency to really go for broke and impress, when it comes to a few specific things. The A9 series was a milestone leap forward in terms of mirrorless autofocus technology. The A7R IV was a milestone leap forward in terms of resolution, indeed even beating/chasing medium format. And the original A7S series was a milestone in terms of video, so, it’s fair to predict we’ll see another milestone this summer in the next generation of video-oriented camera.
What Do You Think?
What features do you think this camera will have? What features do you think it MUST have? Leave a comment below, and in just a month or two we’ll have the truth!
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