3 reasons to think the A7sii is better for wedding filmmakers than the A7iii
Oh oh, another A7iii vs A7sii comparison? Yes, but.
We all know just how great Sony's latest mirrorless camera is. Seriously, the A7iii could possibly be our decade's game changer, especially in the video making scene. Something similar to the revolution that the 5D mark 2 had made in 2008. The A7iii is probably going to lead the marked throughout 2019 and deep into next year as well. People will probably still consider it as a fantastic choice for filmmaking, and as a low light beast, even in 2022.
There is no doubt that the A7iii out performs her older sister, the A7sii in many ways. Continuous auto-focus with 693 phase detect points, combined with an amazing contrast detect system, with an unprecedented number of 425 detect points. Not only that, the A7iii has two SD card slots, amazingly clear 4k video (downsampled from 6k) and much better battery life. But many words have been already written to support this way of thinking.
In this short article i would like to suggest the outrageous idea that the A7sii is still better for the specific use of wedding filmmaking and event "run&gun" shooting.
1. Low light capabilities - the A7iii has proven to be a very good low light camera, with new noise reducing algorithms and a better, newer, sensor altogether. Nevertheless, i will cautiously claim that the A7sii is still better at the high ISOs range, a territory that a wedding filmmaker like me so often find myself in. True, the A7iii is still a great performer even at ISO 8000, but beyond that it's noise reduction systems starts to kick in really bad, and destroy precious detail, especially when shooting people, and people are the bread and butter for us, wedding filmmakers. Very often i find myself being saved by the A7Sii and it's amazing detail capturing at ISO 16000! unbelievable right? Well, you just can't compete with that delicious 12 MP sensor. When it comes to pixels, more means worse for light gathering (the A7iii has double the pixels than the A7sii because it also aims to please to still photographers, yuck). The A7Sii just stays amazingly clear even at the gloomiest of reception halls, even at the darkest of venues under the sky with very little artificial lighting. When the bride pours her heart out, almost motionless, inside the pre-designed moonlit Gazebo, i don't need a bajillion AF points, we are not shooting sports here, we shoot emotionally involved moments. What i need, is a very good low light system to keep her face clear and correctly exposed without turning into a noisy mush.
2. Solid HD - all "real world" Sony videographers will admit that the A7 line of camera has an achilles heel: low bit rate HD. This could be considered as an advantage or a deal breaker, depending who you are and what you're aiming for. For some people, shooting HD with only 50 bits per second is bliss, because they don't have to deal with huge chunks of files, and storage is so much easier (i will get to storage in a bit). For others, such low bit rate (comparing to Canon and Panasonic cameras like the 5D mark 4 or the GH5) is a curse because you have to be very very skilled videographer in order to shoot video without getting the exposure and white balance wrong once in a while throughout the day (Studio shooting is so much easier in that sense). Plus, lower bit rate means lower quality, and less options in post production and color grading. So, after we have established that, we can now understand why shooting in HD is the A7iii's dirty little secret that nobody is talking about that much. As long as you shoot 4K, your video will be amazing, but the minute you go over to HD (in order to shoot some slow motion in 60FPS for example) your video will look much worse, and with a much softer look, and that looks dated. Moreover, the A7Sii is still the best Sony camera to do 60fps work with, thanks to it's solid, detailed HD footage, that is derived from it's low mega-pixel sensor. The a7sii has such good HD, that sometimes i'm tempted, against my better judgement, to shoot HD instead of 4K. As a wedding filmmaker, some parts of the day truly demand 60fps footage, especially while shooting the entrance of the couple, and some more romantic scenes pre-ceremony. Plus, some parts of the event are just not worth shooting in 4k. for example, some people are really worried about shooting the entire speech part of the ceremony. Although emotional and exciting, speeches tend to get long, and usually it's a pretty static frame. For these kinds of moments, a solid HD footage is the filmmakers best friend, because unlike 4k, you can edit it very easily and storage of such files will be much easier too. To sum it up, in real world wedding filmmaking, we often use HD over 4K, in situations where 4K just doesn't bring any advantage. (although 4k will always sound sexier to a client).
3. No Crop while shooting 30fps 4k - another great tool for a wedding filmmaker is the "Semi Slow Motion" mode. I'm talking about shooting in 30fps and then modifying it in post to a 23.976 timeline. And i would like to thank Matt Johnson at Filmstrong Productions for Youtubing about it very comprehensively. The over rated 120fps is way to slow for real world wedding filmmaking, because no sudden or quick movements are ever made (with the exception of the groom breaking a glass at the end of a jewish "Huppa" ceremony). For that reason, i'm willing to bet that almost no one among wedding filmmakers ever really use 120fps (and the A7sii does have a horrendous x2.2 crop in that mode - unusable). I will further claim that even the 60fps is sometimes too much, and for that reason i find myself using more and more the Semi Slo-Mo feature. Shooting 4k in 30fps, and than reducing speed around 20% (which is a lot for people shooting!). In that matter, the A7iii has another dirty little secret - x1.2 crop in 30p 4k mode. And since we have already established that HD footage is a no go with A7iii, we have no choice but to suffer from this crop when trying to slow down things just a tiny bit. I'm not saying that it's a deal breaker, but in the world of 2020 filmmaking, punching in with Sony's amazing "Clear Image Zoom" feature, or just cropping in on some 4k footage in post to get more subject reach, are an easy solution for filmmakers to get that close, intimate shot. We don't need more crop! If anything, getting those 35mm (or even 16mm!) open shots is becoming golden. Let our subjects breathe! A good wide shot, where the surrounding ambient complements the couple, is what i'm always after! Capturing a hyper-sentimental close-up is awesome, but shooting for those breathtaking long shots should be considered as a more desired achievement. We all like to get the feel of the surrounding, the ambient of the place where those moments happened. So, comparing the A7sii no crop 4k and the A7iii crop in 30p, i would much prefer the first. I'd like my 35mm lens to stay that way in 30p and not turning up as a 42mm, which doesn't sound much, but is actually a pretty big difference and sometimes too close of a range for certain situations, one of them being the dance floor shoots, and even the ceremony, where i rarely have extra space to move around freely. In conclusion, with time, we will appreciate having the option of shooting wide with our most usable camera setting. Being able to shoot 16mm truly peaks when doing handheld work, in which the camera's IBIS system delivers exceptionally smooth tracking shots, without ever having to use a gimbal or glide-cam (on the A7iii 16mm becomes almost 20mm, not so wide anymore). Did i mention 16mm is my favourite focal range?
All in all, you'll probably want to crucify me after reading this article, shaming me with extremely true arguments that prove the A7iii superiority, and that it blows the A7sii out of the water. your'e probably right in many ways, and obviously most of the internet will agree with you. But i think what's interesting is that sometimes an older model of camera still has some advantages in certain situations, one of them being wedding filmmaking which i do a lot. This is a cliche, but its true: a better camera will not make you a better filmmaker. Making films will make you a better filmmaker.Wanna shoot me? or maybe a slight sense of agreement crawls to the back of you mind? You are welcome to comment below, let me know what you think.
Let's go make some movies!