Why I'm Returning the Sony A7S

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Eric Westpheling stars in my Sony A7S Hand Held Jello Test from Andrew Wonder on Vimeo.

On paper, the item to come out of NAB that I was most excited about was the Sony A7S. It wasn't just the low light (how much do you really need?) but rather, for the first time, it seemed like a company had made a real camera in the DSLR form factor that I love so much. It didn't have internal 4K but it's small size, ability to handle almost any type of lens, a real codec and truly customizable picture profiles were a huge thrill to me.

My original A7S test from NAB
When I arrived at the Sony booth you can imagine my disappointment when I bumped the camera by accident and saw how bad the rolling shutter and jello effect were. I got a lot of flak about this from some major bloggers and have been patiently waiting for the camera to arrive to see if any of this issue was resolved in final firmware.
To be honest, I was ready to drink the kool aid and fully embrace this camera if it was even a little better. After using the 5D for so long I wanted something new and with some exciting new features. Once again as soon as I raised my eye to the electronic viewfinder I was as disappointed as I was at NAB.
It shocks me that this problem is not being discussed further by reviewers and bloggers who are covering the camera. Yes we are seeing rolling shutter tests but they are in the middle of a lot of praise. How can we praise and honor a camera that you can't even pick up and take a video with? To me the whole point of small cameras is to be able to pick it up and either shoot handheld all day or get a quick shot between setups. If you're going to be using a tripod all day and sneak shots of people on a beach with a 200mm who cares how small the camera is?

A well done APS-C crop test on the A7S but even with the crop (and loss of low light) the jello is still there. Goodbye Jello! Hello Sony A7S APS-C vs Full Frame. Also some 720p 120 FPS. from Ed David on Vimeo.

The problem isn't just the rolling shutter. We've had not great rolling shutter since the 5D2. The issue for me is that Sony cameras seem to have this jello effect that when you move the camera around the image doesn't feel stable and almost shifting around like a glob (hence the jello analogy). I've seen some tests where people are using APS-C mode on the A7S to counteract the shutter but even then I still see this jello effect. This is a problem I've seen across the Sony mirrorless line EXCEPT for the A6000 which seems to have magically escaped all the rolling shutter and image pitfalls of Sony engineering. The only issue with that camera is it's a 100 ISO base chip so the lowlight gets bad fast.
Here is a commercial I just did for Microsoft in Africa. Most of the spot (and all of the slow motion) is A6000. The rest is 5D3.
There are a lot of great things about this camera. You can read about them on every other site talking about the A7S. The slow motion is great and so are many of it's features. The image on this camera is lovely and customizable but I don't know how any reasonable engineer or reviewer can stand behind a camera you can't even pick up. It's becoming clear since the blackmagic cameras that we are beginning the rolling shutter wars. I don't know if all these shutter issues are manufacturers trying to protect their top cameras by not putting the right technology in the small ones or if we just don't have the ability to fix this in camera yet. All I know is that this is a problem we are going to keep seeing unless we as an online community band together and demand better from all manufacturers.
With all the cameras that have been released since the the Canon 5D2 can you really point to one that is SIGNIFICANTLY better? Yes there are improvements and added features but at the end of the day has the technology really advanced that much in the last 6 years? We have to demand better or else we are never going to get it.

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