Sony A7S will cost $2,500 when it ships in July

/ Updated: May 15, 2014 9:00 PM PDT

Sony Alpha A7S
Aloysius Low/CNET

Editors' note, May 16, 2014: Updated with pricing and availability.

Sony's announced its first 4K-video-capable still camera, a surprisingly big revelation for the low-profile National Association of Broadcasters' show. Based on the same body as the A7 and A7R, but once again with completely different insides, the A7S incorporates a lower-resolution -- but still full-frame -- 12-megapixel sensor. At $2,500 USD for the body, I was correct that it sits above the A7R in the product line, which still costs close to its MSRP at about $2,300 USD.

That's a perfect resolution for a camera like this. It's enough pixels for lots of pro work but few enough to keep a broad tonal range and fast sensor readout, which will minimize lag and processing overhead when shooting video. Ultra High Definition/Quad Full HD (3,840x2,160 pixels) requires a minimum of 8.3-megapixel resolution, while full cinema 4K (4,096x2,160 pixels) needs 8.8 megapixels.

Unlike the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4, however, the camera can't do any 4K internally, even at lower frame- or bitrates; you've got to rig up an external hard drive and do it via HDMI. And, disappointingly, it only does 8-bit 4:2:2 capture, compared to the GH4's 10-bit. That said, it should have a far better tonal range than the GH4 because of the larger sensor.

And while the potential dynamic range sounds great for still photographers, it has the A7R's wimpy contrast AF system. Sony hasn't yet mentioned pricing, but I suspect that it's destined to sit above the A7R in the product line, which would put the price north of $2,300 (£1,390).

Sony also announced that it has an XLR mic kit and 28-135 f4 FE-mount lens under development.

For your comparative enjoyment:

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Sony Alpha A7 Sony Alpha A7R Sony Alpha A7S
Sensor (effective resolution) 16.1MP Live MOS
12 bits
24.3MP Exmor CMOS
14 bits
36.4MP Exmor CMOS
14 bits
12.2MP Exmor CMOS
14 bits
Sensor size 17.3mm x 13mm 35.8 x 23.9mm 35.8 x 23.9mm 35.8 x 23.9mm
Focal- length multiplier 2.0x 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x
OLPF Yes Yes No Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (exp)/ 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 50
(exp)/ ISO 100 - ISO 25600
ISO 50
(exp)/ ISO 100 - ISO 25600
ISO 50
(exp)/ ISO 100 - ISO 102400/ ISO 409600 (exp)
Burst shooting 7fps
40 raw/100 JPEG
(12fps with fixed focus; 40fps with electronic shutter)
2.5fps
(5fps with fixed exposure and focus)
1.5fps
(4fps with fixed focus)
n/a
2.5fps
(5fps with fixed exposure and focus)
Viewfinder OLED EVF
n/a-inch
2.36 million dots
100% coverage
1.34x/0.67x
OLED EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
0.71x
OLED EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
0.71x
OLED EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
0.71x
Autofocus 49-area contrast AF; DFD Hybrid AF system
25-area contrast AF; 117-pt phase- detection

25-area contrast AF
25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity range -4 to 18 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV -4 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 60-1/8,000 sec.; bulb to 60 minutes; 1/250 x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb
Shutter durability 200,000 cycles n/a n/a n/a
Metering 1,728-zone 1,200 zones 1,200 zones 1,200 zones
Metering range 0 to 18 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV -3 to 20 EV
Flash Yes No No No
Wireless flash Yes No No No
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Optical
Best video MP4/MOV 4096 x 2160/24p, 3840 x 2160/30p/25p/24p @ 100Mbps (IPB); 1080/60p/ 50p @ 200 Mbps (All I) AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/60i/ 24p @ 24Mbps AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/60i/ 24p @ 24Mbps XAVC S UHD/30p/25p 4K via HDMI; XAVC S 1080/60p @ 50Mbps; 720/120p
Audio Stereo; mic input; headphone jack
Optional XLR
Stereo; mic input; headphone jack Stereo; mic input; headphone jack Stereo; mic input; headphone jack
LCD size 3 in/7.5 cm
Tilting touchscreen OLED
1.04m dots
3 in/7.5 cm
Tilting
921,600 dots
3 in/7.5 cm
Tilting
921,600 dots
3 in/7.5 cm
Tilting
921,600 dots
Wireless Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi, NFC
Battery life (CIPA rating) 500 shots
(1860 mAh)
340 shots
(1080 mAh)
340 shots
(1080 mAh)
360 shots
(1080 mAh)
Dimensions (WHD) 5.2 x 3.7 x 3.3 in
132.9 x 93.4 x 83.9 mm
5.0 x 3.8 x 1.9 in
126.9 x 94.4 x 48.2 mm
5.0 x 3.8 x 1.9 in
126.9 x 94.4 x 48.2 mm
5.0 x 3.8 x 1.9 in
126.9 x 94.4 x 48.2 mm
Body operating weight 19.8 oz (est)
560 g (est)
17.2 oz
487.6 g
17.2 oz
487.6 g
17.2 oz
487.6
Mfr. price (body only) $1,700 USD
£1300
$3,000 AUD
$1,700 USD
£1300
$2,000 AUD
$2,300 USD
£1700
$2,500 AUD
$2,500 USD
n/a
n/a
Primary kit n/a $1,999.99
£1,550
$2,300 AUD
(with 28-70mm lens)
n/a n/a
Alternate kit n/a n/a n/a n/a
Ship date May 2014 December 2013 December 2013 July 2014

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Sensor Type Exmor CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 12.2 Megapixel
  • Optical Sensor Size 23.9 x 35.8mm