A7S and GH4 - what are your thoughts on them?

What do y'all think of the A7S and GH4? When I look at the footage, do you think it can realistically be used on a big screen? As an idea, I could clearly see the MkIII was just a DSLR on the big screen when back-to-back with Arris and Reds at the last film fest I attended.

Visually, I think both little cameras are good enough for the big screen.

And incidentally, the a7s is beautiful in the hands. It is fantastic to hold onto, really breathtaking. It is what I always dreamed of in terms of form factor - just fantastic.

Personally, I am put off going with a used FS100 as both the GH4 and the a7s look as if they can be blown up to a cinema screen with zero issues with the right lenses. And I can use them to take photos with!

BMCC is uninteresting (too much hassle), C100s now look a little pricey, FS100 ditto and the MkIII is just spurious given the quality of the images coming from the GH4 and as7. These just look so good!

What do y'all think of these two?
 
Hi gorillaonabike - I agree - 4K will project a whole lot better than 1080p. Thats part of the reason I upgraded.

That said, unless you are a full-frame afficionado or need to shoot in the dark, there is no reason to buy the A7s, in my view.

- The A7s cannot record UHD internally (note that I said UHD, not 4K - the A7s will eventually be able to output 3840x2160 UHD to an external recorder, while the GH4 records true 4096x2160 4K internally today)

- The A7s has no 1080p frame rates above 60fps in the States (50fps in Europe) - while the GH4 records at up to 1080/96fps

- The A7s outputs 8-bit 4:2:0 UHD through micro-HDMI - while the GH4 outputs 10-bit 4:2:2 4K

- The A7s can't do much more than start/stop using wi-fi - while the GH4 can be fully controlled via wi-fi

- The A7s' LCD doesn't flip around for self-shooting - while the GH4's LCD does

- You can't adjust the A7s' WB while you're shooting video - while with the GH4, you have full control of all exposure and color settings in still and video modes

- You cannot use the A7s' shutter button to record video - while the GH4 gives you the choice of the shutter button or the dedicated video button

- There aren't many native Sony lenses (and the available lenses are expensive) - while there is a wide range of native Panasonic, Sigma and Olympus lenses that are compatible with the GH4

- The A7s costs significantly more than the GH4 ($2498 versus $1698 in the States and £1799 versus £1301 in the UK).

I've posted a GH4/A7s comparison from LearningCameras.com here that you may find interesting.

You may also be interested in Erik Naso's "Things That Drive Me Crazy About The Sony A7s"

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a GH1/GH2/GH3/GH4 shooter, so that's my bias :)

Good luck with your decision!

Bill
 
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In the interest of full disclosure, I am a GH1/GH2/GH3/GH4 shooter, so that's my bias :)

Good luck with your decision!

Bill

Hi Bill. Great post, very interesting. I love the look of the Sony soooo much but an extra $2k to get it up to 4k is way too much. Jeez, that's a killer. I can get one from HK for $1700 USD so the base price is fine but that extra $2k for a record is painful.

If someone came out with a recorder for $200, I'd have a serious think about taking the Sony. Part of the reason is the camera's aesthetic which I absolutely love. It will shoot flat, looks great, no aliasing / moire but then again the bit rate is markedly inferior.

Glass is fine as I'm an all manual shooter so the Sony's flange distance means I can get whatever I want.

Sony, if only... Why did you have to leave out the 4k internal recording on such a lovely-looking camera?
 
I've had my GH4 for about a week, so far no complaints. The 4k and 96fps are great but it's small things like being able to adjust via shutter angle versus shutter speed that really make the camera a joy to use. Hopefully I'll have some footage to share soon.
 
...it's small things like being able to adjust via shutter angle versus shutter speed that really make the camera a joy to use...

I agree with this - I would add master pedestal, gamma curve adjust and the color bars as some of the little things that tell you that this camera was designed with the video/cinema shooter in mind.

Best,

Bill
 
I agree with this - I would add master pedestal, gamma curve adjust and the color bars as some of the little things that tell you that this camera was designed with the video/cinema shooter in mind.

Best,

Bill

...which makes the GH4 a no-brainer. * Sighs * and the Sony is so lovely...

Thanks for the assist. For me, the GH4 makes more sense than, for example, a C100. The extra added by the 4k more than compensates for everything else the C100 brings. Will check on the usual bits and pieces and look at buying one. Footage so far looks incredible but if anyone is posting on here, I'd be really interested in looking. It's made me a believer.
 
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The A7s looks like an amazing camera, but I'd consider it a bit more specialized than the GH4. The low-light capabilities and dynamic range are simply amazing, but they come at a cost - shooting in s-log your minimum ISO is 3200! That means you pretty much have to use NDs in any normal lighting situation, and/or shoot at higher f-stops which will offset the shallower DOF from the full frame sensor. You'll also have greater noise in the image because of the high ISO. Rolling shutter is pretty significant, measured as worse even than the 5DmkII. Add in the additional expense of an external recorder to get 4k, and the 8-bit limitation, it just seems like you've really got to need the low-light capabilities to justify it.
 

jax_rox

Staff Member
Moderator
I don't know much about the A7s, but knowing it's a Sony, and reading about the 'minimum' ISO, I'll say this:
I shot on the F5 a bit over a month ago. It's 'native' ISO is 2000, which seems impressive, considering it's direct competition sit at around a ISO 800 native.

However, in practicality, I had to expose as if that ISO 2000 was in fact ISO 800. It looked like ISO 800, and I set my meter to 800, and got a pretty good exposure. If I set my meter to 2000, the exposure came out wrong (shooting S-Log3). It seemed more like they simply changed the labeling (if I metered at 2000 and exposed accordingly, everything would be too under-exposed) of their ISO brackets so that the camera seems more impressive. Its night performance was okay, but not as good as an Alexa - which is understandable, but not when the 'native' ISO is meant to be over a stop higher than the Alexa. Jumping up to 3200+ ISO started introducing a bunch of noise (which actually looked more like film grain on underexposed 500 speed film, but it was still quite noticeable).

I just feel I should flag that, as it's easy to look at and be impressed by technical specs, but it means nothing until you use it in the real world.

Also, when it comes to cameras, the first thing you should be looking at is the image it produces - I don't care if it's the easiest camera in the world to work with if the image looks like a steaming pile.

And, in regards to 4k - are you sure you really need it? Don't expect the footage to look less DSLR-ey simply because it's in a higher resolution. It will project slightly better (downscaling 4k for a 2k master, rather than upscaling 1080 for a 2k master), and the downscaling will help remove some of the artifacts etc. inherent with DSLR, but I would test the crap out of it to make sure it looks the way you want before buying.
 
It's the combo of fantastic image quality, lack of aliasing and moire, low price and 4k. If the GH4 image can feasibly be blown up to a cinema screen then I want. Firstly will hire one and then progress if the hire goes well.
 

jax_rox

Staff Member
Moderator
jax - there is pretty much zero artifacting in 4096x2160 4K from the GH4 DSLM.

Noise at high ISO, yes. Aliasing and moire, no.

Cheers,

Bill

Even when projected in 4k on a 30' screen? As an aside, I saw RED Dragon 6k footage projected on a 4k screen a few days ago, and was surprised by the amount of noise in the image once you push the grade a little, even at ISO 800.
 
jax - there is pretty much zero artifacting in 4096x2160 4K from the GH4 DSLM.

Noise at high ISO, yes. Aliasing and moire, no.

Maybe not aliasing and moire, but the on-board compression certainly introduces artifacts that are likely to be visible on the big screen, especially at higher ISO settings where the noise really stresses the codec. For the cleanest image you'll still need to go to an outboard recorder with a better codec.

On the subject of relative ISO - a friend was recently trying to match his GH4 to his C100. He found that the GH4 needs to be dropped a full step down in ISO in order to match the canon, so it may actually be more sensitive than it seems, and the noise at the high ISO may be due to the fact that it's running more gain than expected.

Both the A7s and GH4 use quick scaling techniques on board to derive a 1080 image from the 4k sensor, so you don't get the best HD image out of either. EOSHD had an example recently where someone used an external high quality scaler to produce a much sharper 1080 image from the 4k output of the A7s. With the GH4 you can shoot on board at 4k and do the higher quality downscale in post, whereas the A7s can only achieve this through either an external 4k recorder or scaler+recorder.

I don't think the cost difference between the two is a particularly significant consideration, even factoring in the additional expense of external recorders. If your budget is such that a $2-3k price difference is a stretch, then it's probably not realistic to be worrying about how the two would compare on the big screen.
 
They both look great, the A7s looks more interesting to me though.

The Gh4 looks like the better, video ready camera but the A7s just has some features that bring it above the gh4 in my opinion.

Personally I value dynamic range over resolution any day. It's not resolution that make's your film look more filmic/cinematic, it's dynamic range. And at 14(so they say) stops(just below the Arri Amira) the a7s is a beast.

Low light is also a very nice bonus of course.

I also think the gh4 almost looks a bit over sharpened, which gives it a very digital look. This could just be the user in question, but I have looked at a lot of gh4 videos. It looks beautiful and crisp, but not very film like in my opinion. Based on the videos I've seen I think the a7s beats it in that regard.
 
I agree. I'd initially decided to go with the Gh4 based on functional concerns, but now that a lot of footage has become available from the A7s I've changed my mind and will be ordering one this week.

The Gh4 is certainly the more practical choice, and if I was still doing video work for clients it would probably still be my first choice of the two. But I'm not, so the only person it needs to satisfy is me - and the way the A7s responds to light and renders shadow detail just speaks to me in a way the Gh4 doesn't.

And of course there's the ridiculous low light capabilities. If you haven't seen this clip, it's actually kind of absurd:

http://vimeo.com/105690274

The gh4 overall seems to be a better camera. I'm not sure the pretty aesthetics of the a7S are worth it the extra price tag.

Ultimately, aesthetics are trivial imo.

Hmm. Aren't we in the business of aesthetics? Seems like they might be of primary concern then.
 
If you need amazing low light capabilities go with an A7S.

Otherwise, I would go with the GH4.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdhaqeKf0-Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxGekOHEPuc
 
A7s vs GH4 workflow/pipeline winner?

I'm prepping/producing a microbudget feature (shot multi-cam) and although I like the specs on the GH4 I am shooting a contained thriller (w/ low light conditions) and think the a7s low light capability would come in handy in both ease of use and set/light prep (although most likely marginal). Then again, maybe taking the time to light proper might make up the difference?

SIDE NOTE: My preference would be a c500 but coming up w/ the cash to shoot multicam is just out of the picture (get it?)

That being said, being able to crank out a 4K (even if with the additional rental of Shogun) makes me lean towards the a7s but considering the workflow/pipeline of dealing w/ a external SSD and all those headaches compared what appears to be a really simple 4K GH4 / flash card setup; do you guys and gals recommend dealing w/ the SSDs or just stick w/ the "simpler" GH4 for it's data/footage management. Has anyone here worked on a production with either? What type of issues have you encountered that you think might kill/hamstring a production?

And yes, the 4K is a draw. After shooting shorts and having to recompose (I'm a working animation/vfx artist) awful and sloppy DP work after the fact, I don't want to pretend I'm going to Scorcese it my first feature out. Especially because I'm wearing so many hats and planning (although extensive) can still come up short at the end of day.

Any insight from Directors/DPs/DITs/Producers would be super awesome and appreciated.


Update:
An article w/ some negs on the a7s
http://eriknaso.com/2014/07/20/things-that-drive-me-crazy-about-the-sony-a7s/
but then again:
https://vimeo.com/105690274

More info on filming conditions: Again, I am filming inside a car at night, the lighting may resemble a Buried meets Locke look but we will be in a closed set so we should get some leeway and fine control on lighting conditions
 
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If you have control over the lighting situation I wouldn't let the low light capabilities sway you. I have a Gh fan (owning the gh3) but I don't know a heap about the two cameras. The A7s certainly looks impressive for low light shooting - but that, to me, is moot, unless you're shooting no-budget and can't afford lighting (if you can afford a $2500 camera/are shooting anything more than a home video, this shouldn't apply) or are shooting a run and gun type documentary. Perhaps if there were scenes where you couldn't control the lighting (e.g. shooting guerilla on a street without permits at night), then the low-light capabilities would make sense.

But from what you've said, it shouldn't really be a factor in what you're doing. I don't have experience with either camera - although I find my Gh3 very easy to use - supposedly the a7s has a complex menu system.
 
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