Sony a7S Review – Stuck in Customs

Sony a7S Review

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My Sony Goodies and Lenses

You can pop over to my camera equipment page to see all my goodies, but I’ll just highlight a few here that are related to this camera. You’ll read more about these in the review below.

All the Sony a7 cameras have the same lens system — so if you see me use a7 or a7R or a7S — no worries — all the same lenses and stuff!

Sony a7S Review

(starting with what you really want to know — the difference between it at the A7r!)

It’s a fantastic camera! I You can see from the images below how much I use it!

Let’s get the a7R vs. the a7S thing out of the way right away! It’s very simple. The advantage to the a7R (see my Sony a7R Review) has 36 megapixels versus the a7S, which only has 12 megapixels. The advantage to the a7S is that it is tremendously better in low light! It can go all the way to 409,600 ISO versus just 25,600 ISO on the a7R. In addition, the a7S will have a lot less noise at the high ISO shots.

What about that first bit — the megapixel difference? This should only matter to you if you want very high-rez photos. With a 12 megapixel camera, you can still make very large prints. For example, you can make a 24×36 print that still has about 120DPI. Here’s a fancy chart that shows what print sizes you can do.

Many people make an argument that 36 megapixels is just too big. I don’t agree with that. I personally use TWO cameras. I use the Sony a7R for landscape photos because I like them being super-hi res. My 2nd camera, which I always have with me, is the Sony A7s, which I use for people photos, found items, little bits and bobs, etc. The A7s is such a great handheld camera that’s kinda my go-to thing.

Sony A7s Sample Photos

Throughout the review, you’ll see many samples of photos, like the ones I took below. I think sample photos are a great way to show what the camera can do. Note that I unapologetically post-process my photos! Regulars here on the site are very forgiving (welcoming, in fact!) of this notion, but purists don’t like it. That’s okay. But, if you are new and interested in more about this style of photography, check out my free HDR Tutorial!

Burning Man Night Finale Final (284 of 507)-Edit

This camera is so awesome! Most of my favorite Burning Man shots were taken with it! ISO 100, 1/4000, -13/10 EV


Quiver Tree Milky Way

Is it good in low light? Is it good in low light?? You tell me! 🙂 This is actually a panorama made from 6 different photos. If you want to see how I did this, be sure to pop into our store and check out my videos! ISO 1000, 30/1, 0 EV


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Here’s Bel in a canoe right after we finished filming an episode of the new show we are doing…ISO 100, 1/6400, 0 EV


Sony a7S Review – The Four Awesome Things

Now, these are the exact same 4 things I like about the a7R! I should stop comparing it all the time… I did that above, so I guess I’ll just stop that comparison thing now. Anyway, here are the four things:

  • 1) full frame sensor
  • 2) interchangeable lenses
  • 3) small
  • 4) inexpensive.

Huge Sensor

The full-frame sensor means you can get all the kinds of shots that you’re used to if you’ve been using something of this ilk before. If you’re not used to having a full-frame sensor, well, hang on for the ride. You can do things in low light and most any kind of shot that can be more challenging with a smaller sensor.

Because this sensor is only 12 megapixels, they are able to use all that surface area to capture more light. This is why this camera is so effective in low-light conditions.

I have a lot of friends that enjoy the Micro Four-Thirds system, which is also of course a good sensor size and system. But, honestly, that sensor size is four times smaller than this one. The basic physics of light and surface area simply dictates the superior performance of a sensor this size.

Interchangeable Lenses

This means that you can use very very small lenses on this also-small body. Now that this system has been out for a while; there are more and more lenses available.

You can get adapters to use most any other lens system out there, such as Nikon, Canon, or well, whatever. I put a very thin Leica adapter on my Sony A7r, and it’s very fun to use all of those lenses as well. There is a video on this below. You can certainly say that it is a problem that the Sony A7r does not have a lot of lenses available to it. I agree! But, there are plenty of other lenses out there you can just attach to this system. More on that later in the review.


This camera is 4x smaller than the Nikon D4 and over 2x smaller than the Nikon D800 or the Canon 5D Mark III. Amazing! And, it’s not just the body, but also the lenses. Naturally, you can use all those other lenses here too with an adapter.


This camera is around $2,500, which makes it quite a bit cheaper than any of the normal DSLR Full-Frame cameras. If you’re used to buying big expensive DSLRs, then you may want to consider buying a 2nd camera as a backup and you’ll still spend about the same amount of money!

A Myriad of other advantages

There are many other awesome little things about this camera too! It’s over 2 times lighter than the Nikon D800 (almost 3x as the Nikon D4). It has a flip-out screen that is super handy for holding the camera down low or up high. The viewfinder is bright and gorgeous with all kinds of handy graphical overlays. It’s weather sealed.

Here’s one thing worth a whole paragraph: Focus Peaking. No, this is not a new thing. But maybe if you are new to mirrorless cameras (which many people are who are reading this), then this is a really handy way to nail your focus. Sure, autofocus is great, but sometimes when I am set up, I want to make extra-sure I have the bit that I want in focus. When you turn on focus peaking, you can see exactly what is in focus with a little red (or whatever color you choose) outline. It’s like a video game and very cool. See my “Using Leica Lenses with the Sony A7r Video” to see this in action.

Because the a7S has an amazing viewfinder that I can attach my eye to and look inside, I can use the digital view to see that little red outline and be sure that I have the perfect bit in focus, even at 100%. Yes, some DSLRs have this, but it is often only on the back of the screen, which is often difficult to see in Live View in the daytime. The A7r doesn’t have any of those troubles.

Attaching Leica Lenses

I made this video here that shows how I used four different Leica lenses on the Sony a7R — but it is the same really as the a7S when it comes to this lens thing.

More Sample Photos

You might want to note that all of these photos were taken with the A7s and manual Leica lenses. So, they were all manual focus. Of course the a7S DOES do autofocus, but just not with these Leica lenses.

Africa Day (932 of 1395)

A nice tight focus… All of these shots you see here, btw, are all manual focus. Yes, the a7S has autofocus, but I use it on manual with my Leica lens here. ISO 100, 1/4000, 0 EV


I love this effect of focusing on the front bit and letting the rest fade away. You can see how sensitive the sensor is to the various colors… ISO 3200, 1/2000, 0 EV



It was fun to capture her mischievous smile so quickly! ISO 100, 1/3200, 7/10 EV


LR Export-16-

Look at the terrible light leaks in this camera? Haha… no no… that’s all in post. ISO 200, 1/8000, -13/10 EV


Burning Man Night Final (1 of 376)

This is my friend from Burning Man with his awesome angel wings! ISO 1600, 1/4000, 0 EV


Here’s my friend Curtis Simmons (COO of Stuck In Customs) with a few kids in Africa – awesome! ISO 100, 1/3200, 0 EV


Here’s Bel having fun out by the pool. ISO 50, 1/8000, 0 EV


Pulpo Burno

A handheld shot in a very dark part of the night! ISO 1250, 1/250, 0 EV


Here’s Bel having fun with some kids in the townships of Johannesburg. See that giant Canon she’s using? I”m slowly swaying her over… ISO 100, 1/2000, 0 EV


This is another great example of having a low-light camera so handy. I turned around and quickly saw this… it’s so fun to do hand-held shots at night quickly. ISO 12800, 1/250, 0 EV


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I love the soft bokeh behind her… that’s a big advantage of these full-frame sensors. ISO 50, 1/8000, 0 EV


Africa Day (732 of 1395)

Here’s my friend Wayne, large and in charge. After I spent a few weeks with him in Africa, he ended up buying all Sony equipment! One at a time, I’ll convert all of ya’s!! ISO 160, 1/8000, 0 EV


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So nice and sharp in action-shots! ISO 100, 1/8000, 0 EV


Africa New (2 of 346)

This is a crazy photo of my friend Pete Giordano. He says this photo is “Business in the front and fashion in the back.” And yes, this is how he really takes photos. ISO 100, 1/60, 0 EV


I love the tones in this photo… ISO 50, 1/4000, 0 EV