In today’s post, we will compare two models in Sony’s video-centric A7S lineup, the A7S Mark II and the newly released Mark III. Sony aims both cameras at creators looking for class-leading low light performance. And they also offer these cameras as compact alternatives to their flagship FX cinema line. However, considering the price difference between these models, is upgrading to the latest model truly worthwhile? Today, we will explore their similarities and differences. And we’ll provide insight on which, ultimately, is best for you.
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Size & Dimensions
In physical size, the 3 is double the surface area and substantially larger than its predecessor. Coming in at 129 x 97 x 81 mm (W x H x D) versus 119 x 69 x 38 mm. And it’s also 11% heavier at 699g (with battery and SD cards installed) compared to 627g. However, the total increase in weight here isn’t great enough to immediately feel a difference in hand. But, you will absolutely feel a difference between the sizes of these cameras.
Physical Controls & Ergonomics
In controls, both cameras are quite similar. But, the successor offers notable changes that significantly improve usability.
Here’s a full rundown of the improvements over the predecessor: a redesigned MODE dial, a repositioned video record button, three Memory Recall States, the S&Q Mode, a locking Exposure Compensation dial, a AF joystick, and an AF-On Button.
Sony’s also reshaped both the rear thumb rest and front grip, both of which are more comfortable. And they’ve redesigned the adjustment wheels, making them less fiddly than before.
Otherwise, both cameras have: locking MODE dials, FN buttons, and 4 customs buttons.
Overall, the 3 offers a superior control layout and vastly improved ergonomics than its predecessor.
Both cameras are similar here, but the 3 offers significant improvements in resolution and usability.
Both cameras use center-mounted OLED viewfinders. But the 3 ups the resolution from 2.36M to a whopping 9.44 QXGA display, a 300% improvement. It also offers the largest magnification of any Sony camera to date at 0.9x, instead of the predecessor’s 0.78x. Plus, it has variable refresh rates, and you can set the display to 120 Hz to improve responsiveness.
Both cameras have 2.95-inch rear TFT LCDs. However, the 3 ups the standards in this regard as well. First, it has 17% more resolution at 1.44M dots, instead of 1.23M. Sony also equipped the camera with better articulation and it’s the first in the series to obtain a vari-angle display. Plus, it’s now a touchscreen and boasts full menu navigation.
Overall, the 3 offers substantial improvements over the predecessor in displays.
On paper, these are similar. But, the 3 ups the standards in several key areas here as well.
Both cameras have 12MP CMOS sensors. However, new for the 3 is the Exmor R sensor, which now has back-side illumination. And the redesigned sensor offers better low light performance and dynamic range. Sony’s also equipped this camera with the latest Bionz XR processor, which provides 8x the processing power as the predecessor. It also improves color accuracy and rendering. Plus, the 3 also brings along the new HEIF 10-bit JPEG format. Taken together, the quality of the images is much improved.
The 3 also offers better continuous shooting speeds, now 2x as fast as the predecessor at 10 fps. And it has a far superior buffer, providing 1,000 images, where the predecessor caps at 25.
Overall, the 3 is superior in both quality and performance.
In video, the 3 ups the standards.
Sony equipped the camera with 4K UHD video up to 120p and 1080p FHD up to 240p. The predecessor only offers 4K UHD 30p and 1080p 120p. And it also finally provides 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording and S-Log3 has a lower minimum ISO (160 vs 1,600). It even offers the new H.265 format and 16-bit RAW recording via HDMI, all of which are missing on the 2.
Otherwise, both cameras have zebras, clean HDMI outputs, and log profiles.
Overall, the 3 is superior in video.
In autofocus, the 3 adds superior capabilities.
Sony’s added their latest phase-detect AF system with 759 AF points, covering 93% of the frame. The predecessor only has 169 points, all of which use contrast-detection only. The 3 can also now focus down to light levels of – 6.0 EV, nearly doubling the predecessor – 4 EV maximum. This camera also provides Real-Time tracking and Eye-AF for humans and animals.
Otherwise, both cameras offer focus magnification and peaking, if you prefer focusing manually.
Overall, the 3 offers a far superior AF system. And it’s the better choice if you plan on using AF while recording.
The 3 obtains Sony’s redesigned NP-Z battery, finally moving away from the long-standing NP-F batteries used since 2014. With the larger battery, battery life has nearly doubled from 370 shots to 600 shots per charge. And you can now film continuously for 2 hours, instead of just 1 hour.
Overall, the 3 provides superior battery life.
User Interface & Menus
Sony’s finally redesigned the user interface and menus with the 3, and gone are the two-tiered menus. The interface is also fully touch-enabled and nicely color-coded. The 3 even provides independent settings for movie and still modes, along with the Flexible Exposure Mode.
Otherwise, both cameras offer customizable function menus, and Memory Recall functions.
But, taken as a whole, the navigating experience on the 3 is far more intuitive, particularly for new users.
Both cameras have 5-axis image stabilization.
Both cameras have microphones and headphone ports.
Both cameras have Sony’s Multi-Interface hot shoe.
Both cameras have the Gamma Display Assist Function to preview LUTs when filming in S-Log.
Both cameras have fully silent shutters.
Both cameras have Sony’s Clear Image zoom.
Both cameras support USB charging and continuous power.
Only the 3 has: dual card slots, a USB-C port, Active SteadyShot, the new IR sensor, Face Priority Multi-Exposure, Creative Looks, and dual-band Wi-Fi. The predecessor doesn’t offer any of these features.
Only the 2 has access to the PlayMemories app store.
So which is best?
Well, the A7S III is the superior camera and an enormous update. But it isn’t that simple. The price difference between these cameras is quite large, particularly if you look at the used market.
The best choice between these two cameras comes down to whether you need the added video resolutions and codecs, the better autofocusing, and more intuitive design. If you can live without these features, you’re better off getting a used or even new A7S Mark II and investing the money saved on accessories and lenses. The reality is that not every production needs 4K 120 fps video. And depending on your use case, the updated menus and the vari-angle display may be of no benefit. The same applies to the autofocusing. The Mark II, as it stands, remains an extraordinarily capable camera and a solid option for low light shooters and filmmakers. The Mark III just takes it up a level.