Tech Talk: a7S II

Here is a quick little article I wrote about using the a7S II on broadcast productions for The Talent Manager / DV Talent.

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It seems like only yesterday the 5D was king of the hill. It was almost obligatory for every production to have GVs and the interviews shot on it, despite its many issues. How times have changed. We’re entering a new age of documentary filming where we are spoilt for choice and everything seems to be filmed on the new Super-35 sized cameras. So naturally, a couple years ago Sony threw their hat in the ring and introduced the a7S and a7S II last October.

The a7S II

I’m sure you’ve read loads of reviews on the interweb banging on and on about the phenomenal low light performance and image stabilisation etcetera… so I am not going to waste time here going over well-trodden ground. Rather I would like to talk about the camera with regards to using it as a Self-shooter for Broadcast Television.

Firstly, let’s look at some of the key features that set this camera apart from the competition (and its predecessor).  From a recording standpoint, it can record 4K or 1080p video internally or 120fps in full HD, and as an added bonus the 1080 is Sony’s XAVC-S codec at 50Mbps (and other impressive numbers). Add in internal 5-axis stabiliser and the ability to shoot in S-Log3 with 14 stops of dynamic range and you have one mighty little camera.

Now one of the major failings for ALL of the stills cameras has always been the total disregard for audio. Yes, you could record the audio separately and sync it post, I know how much editors love doing this. Alternately, you could use a separate audio box and hope for the best. Sony has fixed the whole problem with the XLR-K2M, which will give you 2 proper XLR inputs digitally connected to the camera along with some other really cool extras. More on this in a moment.

I don’t know about you but when I am working on a project the last thing I want is more kit to drag with me.  However, with the a7S II’s incredibly small form you forget you even have it with you. It can be used as a second camera to match a FS7 or as a solo shooter when you have a place the FS7 can’t go. It pulls double and triple duty as an outstanding time-lapse camera or for production stills, and because it can share all the same lenses as the FS7 you keep the kit down. Now for the really cool bit, remember the XLR-K2M? You can take it off the a7S IIwhen you are not using it and attach it on the FS7 and you give yourself two more channels of audio.  This is one instance where the whole package is more than the sum of the parts.

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