With the arrival of both the more enthusiast-oriented Sony Alpha A7 III in early 2018 and the megapixel monster that is the Alpha A7R IV more recently in July this year, speculation has been growing as to when we're likely to see an update on the more video-focused Alpha A7S II.
As recently as August 2019, Sony executives confirmed that they were still working on the S line, but as yet nothing has been unveiled, although rumors about the forthcoming camera's features have been circulating for over three years now.
Launched all the way back in 2015, the Alpha A7S II is starting to look like the odd one out in the range, with the likes of Panasonic's Lumix GH5 and GH5S having the edge when it comes to video capture. Don't get us wrong, it's still a solid option, but not our first choice for 4K video capture.
So what can we expect to see from the Alpha A7S III? With still relatively limited rumors floating around at the moment, we've tried to distill what we do know into one handy place, as well as using our own tech knowledge to build a picture of how the Alpha A7S III might look.
Sony Alpha A7S III: sensor
- Could possibly stick with a 12MP resolution
- Featured stacked design with integral memory rumored
- We could see a 24MP sensor capable of shooting 6K
SonyAlphaRumors.com has gleaned information from two trusted sources that potentially reveals some of the spec we're likely to see in an Alpha A7S III.
While the resolution of the new sensor isn't known, it's rumored to have a stacked CMOS design with integral memory, while the sensor will be technically superior to the one in the flagship Alpha A9.
What's our guess on resolution? If Sony is intending to have the Alpha A7S III shoot 4K footage and nothing higher, then we could see resolution stick around the 12MP pixel count that we've seen with both the A7S and A7S II. A higher resolution isn't necessary for a primarily video-orientated camera, with the pay-off being larger pixels for greater light-gathering capabilities.
Should Sony try and push this further and launch a 6K (even if its downsampled to 4K) or an 8K capable camera, then a higher-resolution sensor than this will be needed. For 6K you'd need a sensor with at least a 24MP resolution, while 8K would demand a sensor resolution over 33.1MP.
Interestingly, details of a new Sony 36MP sensor has leaked online that's capable of shooting 8K, so it's not beyond the realms of possibility that we could see an 8K enabled Sony Alpha A7S III.
Sony Alpha A7S III: video features
- Expect to see DCI 4K capture at 60p
- 4:2:2 10-bit internal recording
- 30min restriction lifted
We're expecting a big improvement in video features for the Alpha A7S III, especially if the latest rumors have any truth to them. According to "a reliable source" talking to Sony Alpha Rumors, the A7S III will be able to shopt 4K video at up to 120fps. That's twice the frame rate we were initially expecting and twice the frame rate the Panasonic Lumix S1H is currently capable of.
Currently the A7S II can record UHD 4K video (not DCI 4K which is slightly wider at 4,096 x 2,160 pixels), while it can only do this up to 30p. The A7S II is also only capable of 4:2:0 8-bit recording at 100Mbps internally (though it can record externally at 4:2:2 8-bit), while the likes of the Lumix GH5S is able to record at 4:2:2 10-bit at up to 400Mbps.
With that in mind, we'd certainly expect to see DCI 4K capture at at least 60p, while we wouldn't be surprised to see 4K HDR video recording at 60p. We'd also expect to see the A7S III record 4:2:2 10-bit internally as well.
Interestingly, according to SonyAlphaRumors, Sony was finalizing a new H.265-based professional codec. Known as XEVC, and a successor of XAVC, the new codec is rumored to include 12-bit 4K and 12-bit 8K 4:4:4 capabilities, while 1080p Full HD can be captured at 240fps and 10-bit.
There's every possibility that the A7S III may utilize the same sensor as featured in the new Sony FX9, a full-frame camcorder which is capable of shooting at 6K (which is downsampled to 4K output). The sensor is 19 megapixels, and is back-illuminated. Having this sensor already ready to go would make it a good fit for an upcoming standard A7 model.
Finally, it would also be good to see Sony lift the 30min restriction when recording video and offer unlimited recording.
Sony Alpha A7S III: design
- Likely to use same design as A7R III and A7 III
- Addition of a multi-selector joystick
- Cooling vent on the rear
Just as the A7S II shared the same design as A7R II and A7 II, we expect the A7S III to use the same body as the current A7R IV and A7 III.
This will mean that the new video-focused camera will gain the same refinements as we've seen with the other two models. This includes the addition of a multi-selector joystick that greatly improves the handling of the camera, with AF point selection that much quicker to assign.
Another bit of good news is the arrival of a dedicated AF-On button on the rear of the Alpha A7 III, making back-button focusing much easier, while the eye sensor is now deactivated when the rear screen is pulled away from the body. This means it's possible to shoot waist-level images without the feed cutting out and rather unhelpfully swapping to the EVF.V and A7 III, it'll make the body of the A7S III a touch thicker than the A7S II as well. Expect to see a predominantly magnesium construction, but it will be interesting to see if the back panel of the A7S III is forged from magnesium like the A7R IV, or Sony opts for plastic like the A7 III instead.
According to Sony Alpha Rumors, the A7S III will feature a cooling vent, perhaps similar to the one the Lumix S1H boasts of. If this is true, there'll likely be a fan close to the sensor which draws cool air from vents on one side of the body and pushes the warm air out the other side.
Sony Alpha A7S III: viewfinder and rear display
- EVF resolution likely to stay the same at 2.3 million-dots
- Increase in magnification to 0.78x
- Touchscreen control on rear display
We're not expecting the A7S III to enjoy the same 3.8 million-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF) as the A7R IV , we reckon the 2.3 million-dot EVF will get a magnification upgrade like the A7 III enjoyed, increasing from 0.71x to 0.78x.
As we've seen with other recently announced Sony cameras, the rear 3.0-inch tilt-angle display is likely to offer touchscreen control, which should make both shooting and reviewing images and footage that much easier.
Sony Alpha A7S III: release date and price
- Rumors suggest it'll be here by the end of 2019
- Sony exec confirmed continuation of product line in August
- Predicted prices expected to be around $2,999/£2,849
It's hard to say exactly when we might see a Sony A7S III, considering we've been waiting for four years for it to make an appearance. A Sony executive confirmed in an interview in August that the company was still working on the product - but didn't give too much of a clue about a possible release date.
We had originally hoped it might make its debut at CES 2019, and when that came and went, rumors suggested it could be announced at the 2019 IBC Show in Amsterdam. That, too, is now in the past and so we hope Sony will make an announcement towards the end of the year.
If at all it doesn't happen in 2019, there is a possibility Sony could use CES 2020 to debut the hotly anticipated model, although recent rumors seem to indicate that the A9 Mark II will be quicker to market instead.
Cost is another tricky thing to predict. You can currently pick up the Alpha A7S II for $1,999/£1,999/AU$2,600, which is a bit of a bargain compared to the price the camera started off at. With that in mind, we'd probably expect to see a price of around $3,000/£2,500/AU$4,500 at launch.