Sony Pushes Boundaries of Low Light Capability

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Apr 15, 2014

On April 6th Sony announced the Alpha 7s, a 12 megapixel full-frame compact interchangeable lens camera. It was announced at a press conference at the beginning of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show in Las Vegas and was one of the products that captured the attention of visitors to the Sony booth.

Shigeki Ishizuka, President of Sony’s Digital Imaging Group introduces the Alpha 7s at NAB

While designed for still photography, the Alpha 7s pushes the edge of the envelope for video, capturing 4K video and supporting the XAVC S system with bitrates of up to 50Mbps. Sony also announced that it is working on a 28-135mm F4 Power zoom lens which will be optimized for shooting video.

Sony Alpha 7s with 28-135mm F4 power zoom lens


The Alpha 7s stands out from the crowd. It has exceptional light sensitivity which extends up to ISO 409,600 for movies and stills. Only the Nikon D4s which was announced earlier this has the same ISO range. Sony has created a video demonstrating the difference the increase in light sensitivity makes to the amount of light that can be captured in low light conditions. I think it is an impressive demonstration of low light camera technology.

The Alpha 7s has the capacity to read all the information from the sensor when shooting at 4K. This is enabled through high-speed read out of the 35mm full-frame image sensor combined with the high-speed processing of the BIONZ X processor. This allows the camera to process data from all of the sensor’s pixels and output HD and 4K (QFHD 3840 x 2160 pixels) video while utilizing the full-width of the sensor without pixel binning. This is a benefit when shooting at high ISO since it can help reduce the amount of noise in the image.

Sony has yet to announce pricing or availability for the Alpha 7s, but it would seem likely that the camera will be in a similar price bracket to the Alpha 7r which is Sony’s full-frame compact interchangeable lens camera that was announced in October 2013 with an MSRP of $2,300 for the body only.

Through the Alpha 7s Sony recognizes that the worlds of professional still photography and professional video are becoming closely integrated. InfoTrends’ 2013 Professional Photography survey showed that 24% of professional photographers shoot videos for a fee. InfoTrends expects that the proportion of professional photographers who offer video as part of their services will increase in the coming years. The majority of pro photographers who shoot video report that they do so using an ILC. The most obvious benefits of being able to shoot high quality still and video with the same camera are cost saving and only needing to carry one camera.

Video cameras used by U.S. professional photographers to shoot videos

Source: InfoTrends’ 2013 U.S. Professional Photographer Survey


The move to 4K is taking video capture to the next level. Screen resolutions have yet to catch up, but it is only a matter of time before 4K TVs and other screens with 4K resolution will come down in price and more people can afford to buy one. The benefit of shooting in 4K now is “future proofing,” so that when 4K screens do become available the content will already match the quality of the screen. In the meantime, 4K files can be downsized to high quality HD files. Sony has been quick with introducing 4K to its ILC models and will at least in the near term have an advantage over its competitors in the pro end of the ILC market.

InfoTrends’ Digital Imaging and Professional Photographers: 2013 Survey Results is available to purchase on the Report Store.


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