This is a short overview of a mirrorless camera that I had two days with, so this is by no means a detailed review with graphs and comparison photos. It’s just a few thoughts and specs of a nice bit of kit.
The night before our latest shoot in London, I was able to take the Sony a7sMKII home in order to familiarise myself with it. This camera is my dream camera for small independent filmmaking, obviously, it’s no RED or Arri Alexa but it’s realistically within my grasp so I’m saving up for one! The main selling point of the a7sMKII is its low-light sensitivity, you can bump the ISO up to 25600 comfortably in extremely low light situations without seeing too much noise. This makes it ideal for documentary filmmakers or for filming festivals, music gigs and weddings.
The a7sMKII even boasts internal 4K which previously could only be achieved on the a7s using an external recorder such as the Atomos Shogun. But with a £1k+ price tag, it is not very cost-effective forking out for one when you could pay just a little bit more for a camera that can record 4k internally. Obviously, the recorder has its pros, but for a filmmaker on a budget, there are better options.
Another feature I was eager to try was the high frame rate of 100fps (PAL). This allows beautiful slow motion when the footage is conformed to 25fps in post-production. Unfortunately, you cannot use this frame rate when in 4K, but HD is still a highly acceptable resolution. I tested the slow motion on our cat, Mila while she was flirting with the shoes in our hallway (yes she is a strange cat). Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to film her and she wasn’t being particularly sociable so I only got a few clips. After grabbing these shots, I was eager to edit them with a new bit of software.
I recently started using Final Cut Pro X. I loved the user-friendly workflow the software offers so I started to use it as my software of choice. I found it to be more modern and easier to use than Adobe Premiere CC as long as I disabled the magnetic timeline feature. FCPX has plenty of presets and plugins to help you work more efficiently, to achieve a lot of the same effects in Premiere CC, you’d need to use After Effects CC which is a lot more complicated.
I particularly love the Blade Speed feature which allows me to select at which point I want to create a speed ramp. A speed ramp is when the clip’s speed goes from normal speed to slow motion or vice versa. When I used to do this in Premiere, it was a lot more fiddly and lots of time was wasted cutting clips, slowing them down and matching them up have been approaching it wrong in Premiere, but at least in FCPX there is a very simple and hassle-free method!
I also love how easy it is to select my favourite clips, I can scrub through the footage selecting In and Out points and then press F on the keyboard and instantly the best moments are collated into a Favourites bin for me which saves a significant amount of time. My approach in Premiere was to get clips as and when I needed them rather than collecting all the best bits first. Before I’d waste a lot of time re-watching clips that were irrelevant and spending a long time searching for a particular segment of a clip I saw earlier.
A lot of people treat FCPX like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. Even after disliking it at first, I really grew to love the simplicity of it and how much it quickens my editing workflow. It can be a bit glitchier than Premiere, but I expect that to be resolved quickly in a future update. Overall, Sony a7sMKII and Final Cut Pro X is a winning combination for any budding filmmaker (on a budget).
Review by Emily Roberts, Junior Creative