Field Report: Sony a7RII, a7SII In-Camera S-Log2 4K Samples

Whew. That title’s quite the mouthful, isn’t it? Well, it pretty much sums up exactly what we did. We took the Sony a7RII and the a7SII out to shoot in-camera 4K video and see if there was a huge difference between the two. Here’s what we found…

The first thing to note is that we did this quick test in daylight conditions. There’s no question that if you’re looking to do a shoot lit only by moonlight, then the a7SII is going to trump its high-megapixel sibling. We wanted to see if there was a massive and substantive difference between the two in normal shooting conditions.

Keep two things in mind here, by the way…

  • There was a White Balance snafu with the footage on the a7RII in one specific clip. The camera had to be reset due to some issues with the Metabones adapter we were using and we, um, forgot to set WB back to daylight. For that one clip, it’s set to AWB, which is why the a7SII footage looks a bit warmer.
  • There was a light shift in the last clip. While shooting with the a7SII, the sun suddenly peeked out from the clouds and made the distant San Francisco skyline much brighter than it was when we shot it with the a7RII. Since we were shooting from an area that was still under cloud cover, we didn’t notice the shift in light until we got back from the shoot.

With that in mind, here’s what we did for this quick field test:

  • Both cameras were shot in full-frame mode. Though the a7RII can also shoot in APS-C mode, the a7SII cannot, so we shot them both at the same sensor crop.
  • Both cameras were set to S-Log2, S-Gamut mode. Here, the a7SII was the more capable unit; it also has an S-Log3 mode with two different Gamut options, but to keep the playing field level, both cameras were set to S-Log2.
  • We shot at a fixed ISO 1600, which is the minimum for the a7SII in S-Log2. The a7RII can shoot down to ISO 800, but again, we kept the playing field level.
  • We used a highly-rated Tiffen Variable ND Filter on a Sigma 24-105 lens. Here are the settings we used:
    • ISO 1600
    • f/8
    • 1/50th of a second shutter speed
    • 24p 100Mbps XAVC-S framerate/bitrate/codec
    • Daylight White Balance (well, except for this one scene where we forgot to reset the a7RII back to daylight after resetting the camera entirely).

Without any further ado, here’s the video:

So, what did we find?

  • The a7SII still has that super-annoying greenish cast in some scenes.
  • With in-camera zebras set to 95, the a7SII seemed to trip that warning appreciably less than the a7RII. Whether this translates into it having better dynamic range is debatable; it might just be looking at the scene slightly differently, maybe evaluating it at a 1/3 stop brighter.
    • That being said, the a7SII also manages to hold a lot more information in the highlights that we’d expected. Areas that looked blown out at first glance turned out to have a decent amount of information on closer inspection. I’d give the edge to the S variant.
  • Both cameras’ video quality is stellar, among the best we’ve ever seen from a unit in this class. GH4 users, you have some really solid competition. To my eyes, the video is a lot more ‘filmic’ that that of the GH4.
  • AWB on both cameras is pretty capable. In fact, just use that – or set it to a custom white balance. That will save you some headaches in post.
  • Though it’s not posted here, we did have a lot of fun grading this footage. The XAVC-S code holds up really well in post, and with a plugin like FilmConvert (review coming soon), the footage from either camera is a gift to anyone interesting in grading.

Check out this post, where we compare the same footage taken with the a7S in S-Log3 and S-Gamut3 modes.

As always, feedback and questions are always welcome in the comments below.

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Sohail Mamdani is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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