Water scoop

Filming with Sony A7S and a bit of imagination

I was never too much into video and prefer shooting stills. After making a “second attempt” and further research, I have found that it doesn’t have to be boring or complex process, that I’ve imagined it to be. Of course I am not talking about family videos, where you just trying to capture live moment as it plays out and enjoy every moment of it, I am talking more about something worth showing others without providing context, attempting to grab viewer’s attention for more than a split moment. That I consider to be a challenge and more than welcome test of skills and persistence, exercise large part of your imagination and story-telling skills.

Also, I realized that you can do a lot with video, almost as much as you can do with photographs taken in RAW format. Not everything have to be captured perfectly and you do not necessarily need studios equipment to achieve good results, though it is probably much more unforgiving about exposure comparing to RAW. I find that there is more freedom in composition, what does not always work for stills, may be perfect for video. Since I am complete beginner I this field, all I can do is just “copy the masters” and eventually hope to add some of my style/accent.

On the topic of equipment, I think that any camera that is capable of shooting video (iPhone will work well too) will help you to get your feet wet. For me personally, Sony’s A7S seemed like a perfect tool for the job, with minimum investment and absolutely wonderful picture quality, and ability to use all of the lenses that I already had. As I have mentioned in the first post, you must have the tools that helps and inspires you, to be able to focus on creation of you vision the way you want it to present. A7S has been that tool for me so far, also considering that I was familiar with A7 series, most of the quirks and gotchas were known as well, and all-in-all it felt like part of my body that I could use with grace.

Next challenge was to find the right subject to film, being used to photographs that span milliseconds, this was not easy to identify. To help with that, I have resorted to intuition and own feelings, trying to find scenes and moments that I enjoy to observe, moments that make me feel warm and happy, in hope that I will be able to share them with others. I think that motion picture comes the closest to relaying creators message as it meant, you can have attention of both sound and visual senses of the viewer, and most powerful at that. It can also be a disadvantage, leaving more room for mistakes and misrepresentation. That is where challenge lays, so better embrace it and go for it.

OK, it is time to talk about main topic, filming with Sony A7S. In my experience shooting video with A7S, I have found it challenging without camera cage (I use one from motionnine.com) when hand-held. Size being its major advantage, leaves not much room to hold it stable at chest level (my main position for video) and results in shaky/unstable video. I guess that would apply to most photo-cameras that are not specifically geared toward video, regardless of their size. On a tripod, if secured properly, it is wonderful, allowing you to choose small tripod that is easy to handle and carry around. Mobility is one of the top advantages of this system, with versatility being close second.

Mobility of this camera allowed me to carry and shoot it on a daily basis (if I chose to carry it with me) and capture what otherwise I would only be able to do with my eyes. Once you get used to the form-factor and become comfortable with controls, you will be immersed in the process, nothing stopping you from being creative and explorative.

Versatility is something that cannot be overlooked, since you can adapt almost any lens produced till now, opening further room to creativity and allowing you to create original content that was inaccessible before. With wealth of controls at your disposal, you have a perfect tool to allow you to create.

There have been a lot of discussions, talks and outraged complaints about battery life of A7 series cameras, while not being so great, for my personal use I found it to be not a problem and have yet to face the situation where I was not able to use it due to dead batteries. I do have spares but have not used them so far. My main approach to any electronic equipment, be it laptop, phone or flashlight, is to turn it off (or put it to sleep) when not in use. I did not find start-up time to be an issue, especially with the latest firmware update, so that approach works perfectly for me.

S-Log2, is one of the most desirable and Pro-level features of Sony’s A7S camera. It does produce superb picture with high dynamic range but at the same time is very challenging and at times inaccessible due to the minimum ISO3200 shooting requirement. If you are planing to use S-Log2 during daytime, you will most-likely require usage of ND filters (or better yet Variable ND filter) to be able to have your aperture in acceptable range (F4~F16), which makes it a bit inconvenient but possible if planned accordingly. Due to that, I often resort to shooting in Cine2/Cine4, which is by no means lesser and still allow me a great flexibility in post-processing.

Overall, I am very satisfied by this camera, even for shooting stills with is only one-third of resolution of its biger brother, A7R. I am not sure what Sony has done to the colour profile but still pictures taken with Sony A7S have very “organic” look to it. If you process RAW pictures taken with this camera in Adobe Lightroom, do not forget to choose “Camera Standard” (or any other “Camera …”) profile in “Camera Calibration” section of “Develop” tab, only this way will you be able to get the look I am talking about. Of course it comes with JPEG automatically.

Well, I guess after this much talk, one would like to see some videos that were shot with this camera. I do not claim myself to be any good, and only can guarantee that those videos are something that I personally like (not to mention that I was the one that shot them). Hopefully you will enjoy them like I did enjoy shooting and post-processing them. Please also note that I did not have much choice in choice of music due to the copyright restrictions and limited availability of “free” (as in beer and freedom) music.

Video #1:

Created using Final Cut Pro X for editing and DaVinci Resolve 11 Lite for grading (very simple grading, since I am not too familiar with all the controls and am still learning). Shot with Sony A7S, Mitakon 50mm F0.95 lens and Tiffen Variable ND filter. All of the scenes are shot with PP7 (S-Log2) profile at ISO3200 or higher.

Video #2:

Sony A7S and Mistaken 50mm F0.95, without ND filters. All of the scenes are shot with PP7 (S-Log2) profile at ISO3200 or higher.

 Video #3:

Sony A7S and Sony Zeiss 55mm F1.8, no ND filters. For this collection of shots I have used custom profile based on Cine2.


All music used in above videos is royalty-free and was downloaded from Free Music Archive. The Free Music Archive offers free downloads under Creative Commons and other licenses.

Ian Matyssik is geek to the bone with love for art and nature. In a free time likes walking with his dog and taking pictures.
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